“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Reference: Matthew) 7:1-5)
From the first time I read this passage years and years ago I was aware of the difference between the plank in one’s own eye and the speck in another person. It was clear to me that the plank in one’s own eye was a greater fault than the speck in someone else’s eye. And a detriment to seeing others clearly. How can you appreciate the nature and person-hood of another when you are trying to look around the plank in your own eye?! And it is very likely that once the plank is out of your own eye, the speck in another person’s eye will no longer be a problem. Or conversely, if you try to remove the speck with your plank in the way, you could do damage to the other. Yes beloved, I thought and pondered through many of the implications of this verse.
But I fear the historic Anabaptist too quickly jumped on this verse to apply it to their oppressors and persecutors. As Paul Glock said in one of his statements, “. . . the government is worldly and not spiritual and is counted as a rod of God in the hand of the Father, which the Father uses on disobedient children. As soon as the rod becomes useless, the Father throws it into the fire. Thus will God do to you, godless magistrates. For just as you are appointed for the condemnation of murderers and evildoers because of their wickedness, so also the judgment and fire of God will come over you magistrates on account of your great vices and wickedness in which you indulge, namely blasphemy, adultery, murder, theft and avarice, full of all unrighteousness, disputing, deception of the heart, evil habits, drinking, and eating. On account of these vices, fire and pain will be your reward, Isa. 9:17. Therefore Christ and Paul fittingly say: With the judgment and measure with which you measure and judge, you will yourselves be measured and judged, Matt. 7:2; Rom. 2:1. Thus it becomes manifest: as the judge, so the culprit, and therefore in the end they both belong in hell and damnation because of their sin.”
It is quite understandable that they thought the worst of the judges and magistrates. But one needs to remember during that point of history the legal system was one of privilege and not merit or education. Not to say there are not bad judges in our present day, but judicial controls are much stricter now. That point aside, within the historic Anabaptist’s world view there is too much “us” and “them”. The underlying premise of the verses in Matthew chapter 7 apply to the historic Anabaptists just as much to the magistrates they disdained. Even if the historic Anabaptist felt it was a “plank” in the magistrates’ eye and just a “speck” in theirs does not mean they can judge with impunity. For, beloved, it is human nature to believe the “plank” to be in the other person’s eye.
Beloved, may you judge with only clear visions as bestowed and guided by our Lord God. Selah!