Everything on this earth has a weakness. Politicians seem to like to be in sex scandals and do things with money that would send me to prison. That seems to be a common weakness for that kind of personality. We’ll get back to this.
“Western culture” is a term used to describe the massive group of cultures that have shared the same influences, which generally began in Europe. It is defined—among several other things—by individualism (individual freedom), a preference for democracy (individual political freedom), capitalism (economic freedom), and a heavy Christian influence, which includes the Enlightenment, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Reformation.
The Reformation was (in theory) also about freedom. Religious freedom. That, and, cleaning up a bunch of corrupt leadership. In the end, it wasn’t really much of a “reformation” as it was a “schism”, but the idea was that no man could make or break your relationship with God. That was between you and God, and no priests allowed! Especially that dang pope!
(Read that last bit in an ornery voice, because most of those Reformation guys were fairly ornery—and that’s putting it uber-mildly.)
Anyhow, everything has a weakness. Well, the weakness in our individualist Western culture is undoubtedly:
As consumers, we are used to being marketed to. As voters, we are used to being…well…marketed to. The political theories are all about freedom. Heck, America was started because a bunch of wanna-be capitalists didn’t like paying some other guy’s taxes! They wanted to have their say in the process.
Now, if you’re American, you’re probably not familiar with an unbiased look at American history, but let’s face it: we stole our land from the Native Americans, we stole Florida from Spain, and we stole the entire western half of our nation from Mexico (who had stolen it from some other Native Americans). Ever heard of Manifest Destiny? It’s basically a ridiculous excuse for selfishness on a national level, that blames God for why we get to have everything our way.
In other words: it’s all about me! I get what I want, when I want, and everyone else should bend to accommodate my needs!
Other, non-western, cultures aren’t nearly as “me” centered. People study this, believe it or not. They listen to politicians in Asia, who use words like “we” and “our”. In the west, the “you” and “I” count is through the roof compared to them.
So, let’s look at Jesus, and see how reading his teachings through the lens of Western culture might—just might—affect how you understand what he’s saying.
Read Matthew 7:3-5. The thing about taking the plank out of your own eye.
Now, I have it on good authority (mine) that if you try to correct a westerner about something, the common response is, “Don’t you judge me!” (insert z-snap here).
Then, if you try to say, “I’m not judging you, but Jesus said we can know about other people by looking at the fruit of their lives.”, they’ll inevitably whip out Matthew 7 to prove that you shouldn’t “judge” them.
Because in the West, “it’s all about me”. I don’t like being told what to do. I can do whatever I want. No man can tell me what to do. Only God can judge me (we miss you 2-Pac!…sort of…).
Did I mention that Jesus wasn’t from America?
Obviously, Jesus wasn’t saying, “You can’t correct anyone ever for any reason, unless you’re perfect first.” But that’s what would-be corrected people try to say if you do. Believe me. There’s a reason Jaime Pressley yells “Don’t you judge me!” all the time in My Name is Earl.
Now, if you read that NON-WESTERN teaching in Matthew 7, and try to understand its NON-WESTERN context, it makes a lot more sense.
Our cultural lens is not the best one for reading the Bible, because the Bible is a collection of definitely Non-Western writings. Not to mention their antiquity.
Once again, a reminder: Jesus =/= an American
So, if a non-westerner were to read this, they might ask, “How can we apply this verse to ourselves?” or, “How does this teaching apply to our group?”
At that point, common sense prevails, and the obvious teaching becomes obvious once again:
You can correct people, and help them, and guide them through their problems, just as long as you don’t have the same exact problem in a massive, unrepentant, hypocritical way.
In other words: don’t hold a lit cigarette and lecture someone about smoking.
My point isn’t to teach a verse though, my point is to raise awareness that our Western weakness is selfishness. We are so self-centered, and ethno-centered, that we repeatedly have a blue-eyed Jesus…