Wednesday, Sara and I flew to Virginia; having completed her semester with the Disney College Program, she’s returning to GMU. As we waited to take off, we watched the flight attendants perform the safety demonstration. When they demonstrated the oxygen masks, I remembered an old friend who used to say that those instructions were key not just on an airplane, but in life: First, make sure you’re getting enough oxygen, and then help the people around you. After all, my friend would ask me, what good are you going to do anyone if you don’t have your own act together?

As I recalled his admonition, I thought of how aptly it applies to life as a Christian. When we are excited about what the Lord has done for us, it’s tempting to feel obligated – or even empowered – to direct and correct others, instructing them in how the Lord wants them to live their lives. But unless our own lives successfully reflect God’s love and grace, and our submission to His Will, our instruction is hollow. When our personal walk is faltering and yet we call out other’s struggles, we do a disservice to those we attempt to influence. More importantly, we dishonor our Father.

As His people, we should always be eager to serve and willing to guide those around us who are in need. But to truly help them, we must first make sure our own spiritual lives are in order, so we can show them the love and humility that come from a genuine commitment to the Gospel. May the Lord give us all the strength to breathe deeply of His Love, so we will be empowered to reach out to each other in humble, meaningful service.

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

Matthew 7:1-5