The Choice: Self-Criticism First, or, “Pigs and Dogs”
So, it is largely an absence of self-criticism that Jesus is largely attacking in Matthew 7:1-6.
For if, in the case of ‘honour’, we lift up the other first and ourselves second, then it is the other way round with criticism. We are to criticise ourselves first, and only then can we see clearly to remove the speck from our brothers’ eye. And even if we number among the few who have gone through rigorous self-criticism, then it is still not right to pass comment on the speck in my brother’s eye in every case.
Sometimes, the ‘brother’ in question, Jesus says, is like a dog or a pig (how’s that for political correctness!). Unlike humans, dogs and pigs do not have the capacity for self-reflection, and so they do not mind returning to their vomit or to their mud-wallowing.
Further, dogs and pigs are unclean in Scripture. So then, a brother who is like a dog or a pig is unreflective about their own uncleanness. They refuse to be self-critical. Whatever you say, however wise or sacred, they turn and tear you to pieces so that you are too afraid to confront them.
So then, even if you are one of the very few who have been self-critical enough to face your own worst sins, even then you must not always share your wisdom, because some people simply cannot hear it. They have made a lifestyle out of resisting confrontation. If you even hint at a criticism they explode with anger because they have utterly refused to process guilt.
As A.C. Thiselton might put it, they have a ‘pre-disposition of readiness for conflict’. In such cases, you can forget nice words like ‘conversation’, ‘dialogue’, or ‘discussion’. You can even forget more robust terms like ‘debate’ or ‘argument’. At best, you end up in a quarrel, and at worst you get murdered. Forget all attempts to reason with such people, says Jesus.
Once again, Jesus is correct!
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