I was irritated (ok, incensed) and while still in that smouldering state, I said so on Facebook. Sometimes I wish there was something in the Bible to warn against hasty use of social media – ‘Strayest thou not to make a posting while frustrated, but go forth and post a photo of your breakfast instead’ – Proverbs 94:2. (Don’t look it up, I made that up.)
My sarcasm-tinged online comment stated that a simple apology would have been good and statesmanlike. A few retorts and private messages from friends who are Members of Parliament later, I realised that my own tone had been somewhat harsh and acerbic. The point of my writing here is not to debate the rights and wrongs of the bombing campaign, nor even to discuss Mr Cameron’s alleged aside. The issue for me was that my tone was that of one who had rushed to judge without being in possession of some of the facts. It would have been good to take the opportunity to call for prayer for all who give themselves to public service, whatever their party politics or opinion on this issue. I quickly deleted the post, and sent a personal message to some MP friends who, along with many others in Parliament, had lost sleep that week over making such a difficult decision.
But then the reality hit me. In the tiny goldfish-bowl world that I inhabit as a Christian leader, I was guilty of the very thing that I had rushed to condemn another for – a hurried, thoughtless aside. And that led to an uncomfortable realisation; I needed to go to Facebook and Twitter and apologise for my error. There’s not much health in demanding that others do that which we ourselves are unwilling to do. I share this, not to appear noble, but the opposite: in swiftly pointing the finger, I had stumbled into bruising clumsiness. As Christians, we’re not only free to disagree, but should do so when principle is at stake – but we can disagree agreeably.
The response to my online contrition was most gracious, which was heartening and awkward – it’s difficult to be affirmed for being a clod, even if I am an apologetic clod. But the humbling experience taught me that we humans are very gifted at seeing the faults of others, while either being blissfully unaware of our own, or just deciding to ignore them anyway.
Jesus exposed this rather absurd aspect of the human condition with a farcical word picture, involving people painstakingly seeking to remove a speck from somebody else’s eye, while clambering around with an enormous plank sticking out of their own heads.
"NONE OF US GET IT RIGHT ALL THE TIME. NOT ANYONE, SAVE ONE"
Despite such a blistering exposé of their own ridiculous condition, it seems that few of the Pharisees actually grasped what he was saying, apologised for their actions or changed their hypocritical ways.
None of us get it right all the time – not me, not you, not Mr Cameron, not anyone, save One. In the busyness of life, and the ready availability that we all have to make our voices heard in a way that is unprecedented in history, let’s watch our words, spoken or written. When we do hash it up, as we will, let’s quickly reach for the word that can bring healing and grace to all who hear it uttered, if it’s offered with sincerity:
Jeff Lucas is teaching pastor at Timberline Church, Colorado. He is an international speaker, author and broadcaster
Follow Jeff @jeffreylucas