I’m mildly obsessive about my teeth, at least when it comes to food particles being stuck between them. Usually, I’ll smile wide at Phil and ask him if there’s anything between my teeth after a meal, especially if I know I’m going to be meeting new people or talking in a group or seeing anyone who isn’t a family member. If he’s not there to tell me, I make a beeline for a mirror. Sometimes he tells me when I don’t ask, and while that’s not always easy to take, I know he’s telling me out of love.
Last week, while talking with a woman I didn’t know well after a meal, I noticed some food remnants in her teeth. I quickly averted my eyes and pretended I hadn’t seen them. When our conversation was over and she had left, I mentally kicked myself for not saying something. I imagined the embarrassment she might face if she was headed to class and talked to others with noticeable black spots between her teeth. Would it have been awkward to tell her? Yes, but I know I’d want someone to tell me.
We had a similar opportunity spiritually this week. Phil and I were confronted with someone who behaves according to the world’s standards while proclaiming to be a Christian. Neither of us said anything in the moment, but we were both burdened by the situation afterwards. We have yet to come up with a loving way to broach the subject. For the benefit of this person, whom we love dearly, we know it’s like the food-in-teeth issue — it might be awkward, even perceived as offensive, at the time, but in the long run, it’s for this person’s benefit.
I think about Jesus’ words — “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) — and I wonder if I’m seeing a speck without noticing a log in my own life. I know Scripture supports lovingly confronting people about sin, but I don’t know how to do it, and most of the time, I even wonder if I should.
Any insights out there to help me along? I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with this issue.