We are good at noticing when people do wrong – other people, that is. Most of us can, at a moment’s notice, tell what is wrong with the president, Congress, our family members, and neighbors. Listen to speeches from politicians, read posts on Facebook and blogs, or listen to our conversations, and you will readily see that this is true. However, most of us have more trouble seeing what is wrong with ourselves. Apparently humans have been like this for a long time because Jesus spoke about it. Luke records that Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) Jesus uses exaggeration to make the point that we often can see a small sin in someone else’s life while failing to notice a big sin in our own life.

It’s not difficult to understand why this is so. We each become accustomed to our lives, habits and style of living. The way we live seems normal and natural. We blithely go through life with a log in our eye and this seems normal because we’ve had the log for so long. But if we see someone who has a speck – well, that speck clearly isn’t right! So we talk about the speck in the other person’s eye while blindly assuming that the log in our eye is not a problem. But it is. The other person needs the speck removed from their eye, and we need the log removed from ours.

Lent is good time for removing both specks and logs, and everything in between. These six-and-a-half weeks leading to Easter have served for centuries as a time to purify our lives in anticipation of the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus speaks of specks and logs as metaphors for sin, but let’s reflect briefly on a literal speck in one’s eye. It is a universal human experience to get something in one’s eye, usually a bit of dust or an eyelash. When we get something in our eye, we usually start rubbing the eye (even though that’s not what we’re supposed to do). If that doesn’t work (and it usually doesn’t) then we find a mirror. We want a mirror because the eye cannot see whatever is in it; the eye cannot see itself. We must look in a mirror and examine the reflection of the eye in order to see the speck or eyelash so that we can remove it. The mirror gives us a needed perspective on the eye.

Our lives are like that also. We do not have an objective view of our lives; we do not see our habits and actions as others (or God) see them. Our view is skewed, and we tend to be blind to specks and logs in our in our lives. We need a mirror: something to give us perspective and which will cause our specks and logs to be easily seen. Thankfully, we have such a mirror. We have scripture with God’s word and wisdom on how to live. We also have writings from Christians through the ages who have struggled with the questions of sin and living righteously. These men and women have written guides to assist us in seeing the specks and logs in our lives. We can use the commands of scripture and the guidance of the saints as a mirror to get a better view of our lives and actions. We can prayerfully perform an examination of conscience to discern areas in which our lives fail to measure up to God’s law. Then we repent, ask for forgiveness, and resolve to amend our lives. Thus we remove the log.

After the log is removed, what then? In the verse following the well-known one quoted earlier, Jesus continues, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Luke 6:42) After our log is removed through examination of conscience, repentance, and amendment of life, our task is to help others remove the specks in their eyes. We most definitely should not be self-righteous about having an eye without a log in it. Rather we should greet one another as fellow pilgrims trying to walk the path of Jesus. We are all sinners – some of us are sinners with specks, others are sinners with recently removed logs, but we’re all sinners. Being saved by Jesus, we are not just sinners, but alas we are still sinners by nature. Perhaps Christians should greet people by saying, “Oh, you’re a sinner? So am I – let me help you with that.”

The log has been removed from your eye in order that you may more clearly see to assist another in getting the speck from their eye. Not so that you can more clearly see the speck, but that you can see more clearly to remove it. Our salvation comes through repentance and conversion of our lives, but it is made more secure when we humbly assist others. We need to spend less time pointing at the specks and more time helping in the removal of specks. And while we help we need to remember that it is just one sinner helping another toward fuller entry into God’s Kingdom. And that is also a description of Lent and Easter: removing sin in preparation for glorious resurrection.