There are times when Jesus seems so black and white, with no shades of gray. Only good trees bear good fruit, no bad tree can produce good fruit, making it seem that there are good people in the world and bad people, and nothing in between. These kinds of verses have been utilized by religious types for centuries to exclude people. Yet if we scratch under the service of the seeming black and white nature of these statements of Jesus we do find that shade of gray, in fact multiple shades of gray. For Jesus links the goodness found in our hearts to the things we do and say.
Jesus also links these degrees of gray to how well we see: are we judging others without first understanding ourselves? Are we ignoring what we do and say and focus on others, simply because it is easier and makes us feel superior? We have all met people who we either don't like or seem to act out of a place of "badness". And yet we are surprised when those individuals do something "good". Is that log in our eye allowing us to miss that "goodness" in the person we have labeled as not belonging because of the speck in their eye? Is that all we see?
It all starts with us, with our doing work on ourselves to allow us to non-judgmentally look and understand the world and our fellow travelers. We are reminded by Jesus that he was sent to teach love, and that love of neighbor starts with love of self. How can we love ourselves or our neighbors if we don't understand ourselves first?
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.