I had an interesting discussion with a friend last week about the concept of hypocrisy and the injunction of Our Lord to take the beam out of our own eye that we may see better to take the mote out of our brother's eye. The question that arose was this: Suppose that Person A is secretly committing some sin. Does this mean that he "has no right" to tell Person B that that activity is a sin?
It's a tougher question than you might think. Let's say that the thing definitely is a sin, let's say even a serious sin, and that Person A knows this quite well even though he is secretly committing it. We can hardly say, if the issue comes up in conversation between him and Person B, that he should not tell the truth or that he should condone the same sin in Person B. So it seems, on the one hand, that he does have a right to say that the action is a sin.
On the other hand, we have not only Our Lord's injunction about removing the beam but also a pretty strong intuition that there is something unpleasant and hypocritical about A's telling B that this is a sin while secretly committing it himself.
How do we accommodate both of these intuitions?
I have no great answers to this and would be interested in reader thoughts. My scattered thoughts on it include these:
--If Person A is in a position of great authority, especially Christian leadership, he should resign that position until this grave sin is not only repented but is a thing of the past in his life. He should not continue living a double life. A Christian leader should be exemplary in the purity of his life. St. Paul makes this clear repeatedly.
--If Person A has not confronted the fact that he must stop this sin, his conversation with B in which the subject comes up should serve as a wake-up call. The very sense of discomfort that he should feel while solemnly telling B that this activity is wrong should show him that he absolutely must get his own house in order, must confess this sin and put it behind him.
--Our sense that A "has no right" to speak out against this sin may arise from a sense that perhaps A is not being honest, that he must not really believe that this is a sin if he continues doing it.
--Perhaps A should refrain from anything other than personal conversations about the wrongness of the sin--should refrain from writing or giving speeches about it, for example. On this one I'm more shaky, and I don't have a strong rationale for the advice.
Readers, what do you think?