Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 20, 2011


If only I could get this log out of my eye


          A famous teacher once offered good advice to some men who had the bad habit of criticizing other people. The teacher called them hypocrites for presuming to think they could remove a “speck” from someone’s eye when they could not even see the “log” in their own eye. His advice to them: Get the log out of your own eye; then you can see how to remove the speck from your friend’s eye.

            A modern teacher offers a novel twist to the ancient teacher’s advice. Eugene Peterson changes speck and log to smudge and sneer, hoping his contemporary English will convey the same meaning. You can judge for yourself whether he is right: "It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

The famous teacher, as you may have already guessed, was Jesus. His advice to hypocrites has bothered me all my life for I have a tendency to make snap judgments of others. I can see so quickly the smudge on my neighbor’s face – and I want to wash it off! Many of us have that problem. We can easily "size up" another person and dismiss the individual as having little importance in the scheme of things. Such assumptions having been made we walk on our way, paying little attention to these "insignificant" persons.

One friend of mine confessed having made this mistake about a pudgy little woman who joined her church. She said, "It occurred to me as I looked her over that she would be good for a bowl of potato salad for one of our church suppers." "But," she said, "you can imagine how stupid I felt when within a year this chubby little woman became one of the most effective and beloved Bible teachers in our church!"

I felt flushed with guilt as she shared her confession. So many times I too have made careless judgments of others, sometimes based on nothing more than their appearance. It is not an uncommon thing among us who “serve the Lord,” for we too can see the "speck" in a brother’s eye while overlooking the "log" in our own eye. I realize that if I could only get this log out of my own eye, I could be a much better judge of other people.       

Somewhere I read the story of a little girl who, years ago, had been locked in the dungeon of a mental institution near Boston. Only those who were hopelessly insane were consigned to the dungeon. The doctors had no hope for the girl they called "Little Annie," so she was forced to endure a living hell in a small cage with little light or hope for recovery.

But the story does not end in that dungeon. An elderly nurse, nearing retirement, came on the scene. She was one of those unusual persons who had hope for every child. So she began taking her lunch into the dark dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. Her great desire was to show love and hope to the pitiful little girl. This was a difficult assignment. To have hope for Annie was almost impossible. Her mistreatment in the past had turned her into a violent person. Almost like an animal she would attack anyone who came into her cage. Or sometimes she would ignore those who came near her. This was her initial reaction to the elderly nurse; she paid her no attention at all. 

One day the nurse left some brownies outside Annie’s cage. Annie ignored them while the nurse was present but when she returned the next day, the brownies were gone. After that every Thursday the nurse brought brownies to Annie. Soon the doctors observed a change taking place in Annie. In response to her improvement, the doctors decided to move Annie upstairs, where she continued to make progress. Finally the day came when this "hopeless case" was free to leave and return home. 

But Little Annie decided not to leave. Somehow the kindness of the elderly nurse had inspired Annie to believe that she could help others as this loving nurse had helped her. Little Annie stayed and was it was she who later loved and nurtured Helen Keller to emerge from her own imprisonment and become such a wonderful person. You see, Little Annie’s name was Anne Sullivan. I need to think about Little Annie the next time I am tempted to make a snap judgment of another person. If only I could get this big log out of my eye I could see the amazing hidden potential of other people and the world would be blessed with one less hypocrite. + + +