Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blind leading the blind

I found myself drawn to this verse recently:

And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? (Luke 6:39)

It is a very simple saying, yet I found myself wondering about how it was called a parable.  It has no explanation; it is as if we are meant to understand it immediately.

I asked myself the question, “What am I to do because of this parable?”

In order to decide that, I could see I would have to locate myself in it.  Am I the blind person leading, or am I the blind person being led?

No one likes to think of themselves as blind, and I am no exception, but I can’t deny that I look to leaders when I don’t know what to do, so of course those are times when I am blind.  But there are also times when I have to lead, and some of those times I don’t know what to do, so I am like a blind person leading blind people. (Or maybe my followers see and they are just bearing with me..)

I think one thing we can see is that the parable implies that blindness is an undesirable characteristic.  It is undesirable in leaders who want people to stay safe and want to help people return to God.  (If they can’t see the way themselves, how on earth can they help their followers be any better?  It is impossible.)  It is undesirable also in followers because even if they don’t have the vision to see the way themselves, they at least have to be able to see enough to tell whether they are following a good leader or not.

That’s when I realized that the verses coming after contain very helpful principles for people to use as they consider choosing the mortal leaders they will follow (because even as we desire to follow Christ, we also need mortal exemplars as well).  So I’m going to go through them in this post.

The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. (Luke 6:40)

If you substitute “fully trained” in place of “perfect,” we can better see how this applies in our choices of people we choose to emulate.  We see that we can only become as good as those we follow, so if we choose low quality examples, we’re certainly not going to rise very high.  But if we choose good examples, then we rise higher.  And of course, if we commit to follow Christ, we will rise to His level someday.   

Or we can look at it in another way.  People may choose you as an example.  Think about how high someone might rise if they choose you.  How might your example limit someone’s development?  (It certainly suggests areas of improvement.)

Moving on..

41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. (Luke 6: 41-42)

Suddenly we can see this bit about the mote and the beam in the eyes as continuing Jesus’s discussion about the process of deciding who to follow.  Naturally, when we look for leaders to follow, we’ll see faults as well.  But they may also be flaws that we perceive in others’ perspective.   (Who hasn’t found themselves criticizing others for not seeing things the “right” way?)

In this case, the lesson may be that finding fault with a good leader’s perspective is a sign we have terrible faults of our own to deal with, ones that drastically distort our perspective, such that we can’t recognize that they are what we need.  I’ve seen it true in my life when my sins distort my perspective.   In the small areas I have doubts, those doubts make me see people who act in faith and plunge into the unknown as unrealistic fool-hardy risk-takers, but really the fault lies in me.  If I tried to fix them, I would make a worse mess.  In the areas where I am reluctant to take initiative, that makes me look at people who push on their own volition as workaholics enslaved by their own drive, when in actuality I need more of that quality in my life, if I only knew how to get it.  To help me, someone would have to have been where I am and then found how to overcome it.

Again, the message of the mote and the beam parable is that our faults may get in the way of us picking good leaders, so we almost have to use our perception of others as a key that actually points to our own faults.  (Just as an example, I ran into some teachers who seemed pretty overbearing and that annoyed the heck out of me until I realized that my irritation indicated I was overbearing myself.  I’m still trying to work on that, and I have no idea how I’m doing, but I do know that I’ve been more patient with others’ overbearing-ness since that realization.)

Jesus’s next words continue the theme of principles we can use to pick out good leaders to follow, and we’re familiar with them, but they are worth a review.

43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. (Luke 6:43-44)

Simply, judge by the fruits.  Good leaders should do good things, which lead to good fruits.  Good fruits are things like acting in faith, growing testimonies, repentance, growing and improving obedience, doing missionary work, diligence and industry, etc.  Corrupt fruits would be apathy, discouragement, doubt, fear, pride and complacency, rationalization and excuses, persecution, waning obedience, rebellion, hostility, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, pride, etc.

And finally,

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)

The kinds of things people say also can also act as a indication of the kind of leader/example they’d make.  The principle is that the mouth speaks far less than the heart holds, so a person speaking good things has much more of good in their heart, perhaps more than they can express in words.  Likewise, someone speaking evil has a heart full of the same. 

(As an aside, I’m sure you’ve noticed there are people out there who say things that are evil, which they try to make sound good.  What does this indicate about what goes on in their hearts?)

Considering that all this comes in the same chapter as the oft-heard words “Judge not that ye be not judged,” we need to realize these principles are not to be used to condemn others, but merely to help us decide whether we should follow someone’s example or not. 

So, to sum up, we are to choose mortal exemplars carefully, realizing the quality of the example we choose will dictate how high we will rise, and also take as our main example Christ.   We are to be aware that our faults may skew our judgment of  real leader quality, and we are to be observant of the quality of the fruits of their acts and of the spiritual quality of their words, whether to edify or destroy, knowing that these are unfailing signals of true or false prophets.

I love that Jesus was so plain and clear about this.  You can see in His words that He knew we needed lesser leaders and examples in addition to His ultimate perfect example, and He wanted us to know how to pick good ones so that we could progress and also help each other.  He wanted us to not be blind followers, but discerning and wise followers.  He wanted us to know how good followers would be considering our leadership and the examples we set.