The four planks continued:

    (d) Self-love

    This is the most pernicious of all the planks that distort judgment. It affects our judgment of:

      (I) Rivals. During my teaching days a girl would occasionally come to me and ask, "Mr Reed what would you do if someone was really horrible to you?" I would say, "And who would be horrible to a lovely girl like you Belinda?" After Belinda provided me with a name I usually had some idea what the problem was - two girls fancied the same boy and were vying for his attention. They had nothing good to say about each other because they were rivals in love.

      George Thomas the former speaker of the House of Commons included some revealing anecdotes in his autobiography. The organising committee of the Great Peace Rally in 1954 needed to elect a chairman. Lord Beveridge proposed himself. He said, "My wife has said that in view of my status and position, I should be chairman of this meeting." Thomas and others opposed the proposal. Lord Beveridge phoned his wife and promptly resigned from the committee and went home. This led John Collins, the Canon of St Paul's, to announce, "Well now Lord Beveridge has gone, I think that I should be chairman." Several objected to this and so Canon Collins also left. Eventually Donald Soper was elected chairman. Now it is obvious that Beveridge and Collins had the plank of self-love in their eye which distorted their judgment.

      Rivalry exists in churches. It was very evident in the church at Corinth where different factions existed each doubtless with its own leader. The groups that followed Cephas, Apollos and Christ had a poor view of Paul. In their view he was unimpressive and his speaking amounted to nothing. 2Cor10v10. See exposition on 1Cor4v6to21. Paul's critics had the plank of self-love in their eye.

      Rivalry is common in churches today. It may exist between a pastor and his assistant, within a group of elders, among clergy associated with a great cathedral, between competing organists and among the ladies on the flower rota. Wherever the spirit of rivalry occurs the plank of self-love will lead to bad judgments.

      (II) People who threaten our position. A person in authority, from headmaster to head of state, can perceive the persistent critic as a threat to their authority. It is just so easy for the plank of self-love to lead the authority figure to misjudge the extent of the critic's influence.

      (III) People who are better than us - richer, luckier, happier, better looking, more successful, talented and popular. The plank of self-love in our eye may make us jealous. A jealous man has the evil eye and is capable of bizarre and damaging judgments.

(2) It is good to have faults removed.

Jesus acknowledged this when he said:"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." v42.

It is not pleasant to have a speck in your eye. One summer, when I was still at school, I cut the huge conical yew trees surrounding our chapel. It was a dusty job and I got a speck of something firmly lodged in my eye. My eye was sore; it watered and swelled up. So I got on my bicycle and went to see Dr Wilkerson in the neighbouring village of Hartest. Those were the happy days when you just turned up at the surgery and were seen! Not only that, but Old Wilky as we called him, was pleased to see you! Anyway he knew how to treat my eye. "Just wait a second while I find a match," he said. This didn't sound too hopeful. I didn't want him to poke about in my eye with a matchstick! But I need not have worried - he used it to roll up my eyelid and in no time at all had removed the irritating speck.

To remove a fault from someone's life requires both know-how and skill. The eye is a very tender organ and it doesn't pay to have an ignoramus poking about in it with a matchstick. Deftly and painlessly rolling up an eyelid on a matchstick requires a certain expertise. Now the fact is a man's ego is even more sensitive than his eye! Tenderness, tact and graciousness are needed to remove a fault from a person's life. Not all can manage it - and if we have a plank in our own eye we certainly should not try!

My old friend Len Pawsey was a village blacksmith and from time to time got a fragment of iron or steel in his eye. Dr Wilkerson usually sent him to the eye department of the local hospital. They used a powerful electro-magnet to gently draw the metal fragment from his eye.

Sometimes our faults can be charmed away. I was always inclined to be grumpy as a teacher. Many years ago I taught a pretty blond girl who could invariably charm my grumpiness away. If she discerned I was in a bad mood she immediately set to work to change it. Heather would smile radiantly and with much good humour say something like this: "Come on Mr Reed, cheer up. You've got us to teach this lesson. You know how much you like teaching us because we all love you!" I was never grumpy for long in Heather's company.

There is no magnetism quite like love. If we speak the truth in love it may help to remove a fault from another person's life. In the words of Peter: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1Pet4v8.