Pilot Error

Matthew 7:1-5

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “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? 4 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? 5 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.

Pilot error was pinpointed as the reason behind the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 near Miami, Florida on December 29, 1972.  An investigation into the actions of the flight crew revealed that they paid unusual attention to a faulty landing gear light that flashed in the instrument panel.  In the process of attending to the concern, one of the members of the flight crew was unaware that they struck the autopilot switches, instructing the plane to alter its current course settings and come to a slow descent.  The flight crew, focused firmly on a faulty landing gear signal, disregarded the rest of the instrumentation panel; failing to realize that the plane was slowly losing height until the aircraft eventually crashed in the Everglades, killing 101 of its 176 passengers and crew.

Simply put, a pilot error is a lapse in judgment.  In such accidents involving pilot error, the actions of the captain are often deemed unintentional.  Regardless, lapses in judgment, especially in this case, are fatal.  They are equally dangerous when it comes to how we relate to people around us.  We often come away with lasting impressions for people we meet, especially when we’ve had very unpleasant interactions with them.  Such encounters may even leave us deeply scarred, and the wounds we suffer from those we have confrontations with will forever color the way we see, think, and feel about them.

Our growth group recently tackled a study on harmonious relationships.  As we studied, we realized very quickly how much easier it was to discuss the topic than to actually apply it.  Growth groups are an essential and safe environment where such things can be discussed. (I hope you caught the little promo there about growth groups!  So make sure you’re a part of one!) The good thing is that we’re talking about it and praying about it so that it we don’t get blind-sided when threats and challenges to relationships do occur, especially in the church.

It is sad to see that God’s children are not immune to this.  When we’ve had painful interactions in the past with our spiritual siblings in the church, we tend to paint a very unsightly picture in our hearts and thoughts about such brother or sister in the Lord that will long influence the way we relate to them.  Harbouring such ill impressions and feelings is difficult to break away from because it can be an enslaving stronghold in the lives of those who decide to shelter such in their souls.  The longer we get fixated on these errors in judgment about our brethren [or anyone for that matter] can be liken to an autopilot switch we unknowingly set inside of us causing us to ignore the warning signs of our spirit sinking into a slow descent of anger, hatred, and resentment that can have catastrophic consequences.

As our Scriptural passage today tells us that we need to take careful stock of ourselves before anything else.  We need to understand why certain people feel the way they do about us before we even try to understand why we feel the way we do about them.  I would like to offer some simple, straightforward questions we can use when we face difficult experiences with others with the intent of being more inward rather than outward-looking when we assess our relationship with others.

  1. Why does this person feel the way he/she does about me?
  2. What have I done [or said] that may have caused this person to relate to me the way he/she does?
  3. What did I contribute to this relationship that has gone sour?
  4. Are there principles or philosophies [regardless how biblically sound they may be] that I personally have strong convictions for but for which I may be forcing upon others [who may not feel the same way] causing them to be uncomfortable around me? As such, am I being disrespectful in a way and not exercising mature love that shows patience and forbearance?
  5. Am I still willing to passionately love this person [and show it] the way Jesus had commanded and modeled for me despite our differences? What specific actions can I take to embark on the process of moving towards healing such a troubled relationship with my brethren?

And as in many cases, these spiritual truths should guide us to the right path to take:

  1. Don’t make an excuse not to exercise love at all cost (Proverbs 10:11-13). Jesus didn’t! (Romans 5:8)
  2. Be ready to forgive and equally be ready to accept forgiveness (Colossians 3:13)
  3. Strip all forms of pride that get in the way (Ephesians 4:2)
  4. All of us get thrown into dirty confrontations some time. Approach the situation with the highest level of gentleness and respect even when you’re not being shown the same (Philippians 4:5).
  5. Consequently, don’t resort to issuing ultimatums or pointing out flaws of another in order to make you look better and your arguments sound better. It just makes things a bit uglier.  It will just distract you from focusing on and resolving actual issues (Romans 14:1-3).
  6. Be patient since everyone’s pace of spiritual growth is different [even if they already exercise some kind of leadership in the church]. Remember, positional leadership in the church does not equal spiritual maturity (Matthew 20:24-28).

When Satan has a reason to smile about your relationship with others then something stinks!

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