In the first chapter of the letter of James, we are reminded to "Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves". This is not simply another call to action, but a vital reminder that if we have really heard the gospel our response needs to be more than just intellectual assent to a belief system - it requires honest self appraisal as well as different behaviour.
This transition from hearing, through understanding, to doing, does not happen automatically. There is a time lag between when our ideas change and when our behaviour changes. Frequently (and particularly under pressure or stress) we can find ourselves acting in ways that are not consistent with what we now know, because our behaviour is still based on assumptions which we have in our minds long since given up. You may well have recognised this kind of behaviour in other people’s lives – it’s usually much easier to see that way!
James reminds us to look deeply in the mirror every now and then so that we can be confronted with the truth about ourselves. Jesus told two similar stories - one reminded us to focus less on the speck in our neighbours eye and do something about the log in our own, the other challenged the one who is without sin to cast the first stone. Knowing the truth about ourselves should help us to move beyond criticising the faults of others to making a real difference in the world.