I used to work in construction. That sounds more manly than it really was. I didn’t do construction, because I don’t know how to do much more than paint. I managed construction projects for a restoration company. When I tell people that I used to work in construction, they don’t believe me. Maybe its the skinny jeans or the lack of tools I own, or even know how to use, but whatever it is, they don’t believe me. That is, until I tell them what my job actually was.
I wasn’t there to fix anything, but I was there to identify what needed to be fixed. The thing about my job that sucked was that when I identified these issues, I couldn’t do much about it. My job was to make a phone call to the contractor responsible and get them back to the job site to fix it. I couldn’t just run out to my car and grab some tools and do the work. All I did was call someone and point out the problem.
I am not telling you this to inform you how bad I am at construction, although that is true, but I tell you this because this is far too often the role we play in the lives of those we are in community with. As Christians, we are far too good at identifying issues in other people, and we fall way short when it comes to fixing those issues. We spend the lion’s share of our time pointing out problems in other people’s lives, and next to no time walking with them to a solution. Then, we hate when people do the same in our lives. We know we have issues… we don’t need anyone’s help in pointing those out.
This practice helps no one. No one truly benefits with someone coming along, pointing out their issues, and walking away. This leaves us focusing on our brokenness, and living in that instead of the grace that Christ offers. And it is especially true when the person that points it out is faking perfection and not acknowledging that they struggle too. For someone to point out our sin or our brokenness is such a vulnerable place, and it is especially hard when we are all pretending that we have it all together… because we all have problems that others could identify.
The bottom line is this: issue identification alone doesn’t move anything forward. Jesus talked about this concept in Matthew 7:3-5.
3 Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye?5 You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.
The main lesson I’ve always been taught here is to not point out the sins or issues in someone else’s life when you have sin or issues in your own life. This is obviously Jesus’ main point, but I can’t help but see something else here. After removal of your own sin or issues, Jesus says that you can see clearly to take the splinter out of someone else’s eye. He doesn’t say that you can see clearly to notice and point out their splinter, but to remove it; to actually do something about it.Being able to identify the issue is a good thing, but to then do nothing about that issue is where it becomes a harmful thing.
This isn’t a hard practice to engage in, but it can be a hard habit to break. We are so used to noticing and pointing out people’s flaws, and we fall so short of walking along side of them to help them past their issues. The thing is, we cannot do life alone. Our culture already succeeds in telling everyone what is wrong or insufficient about them, the last thing they need is another voice to do that. Our goal is to let others know that they are loved and that they are not alone. Issue Identification will never do this.
Bob Goff said it best in a podcast I listened to recently:
“Stop hoping for people and start helping them.”
My prayer is that we, as Christ followers, become people who help others, and don’t just point out their flaws and hope they get it figured out. My challenge to you is to find someone that you already do life with, and help them through something they are dealing with. We are all dealing with some struggle in our life; may we be a people marked by our constant desire to step into people’s mess and do life right along side of them.
Trust the process. Take your next step. Now is your moment.