“What about this man?”, asked Peter pointing to the Apostle John (John 21:21). Jesus replied, “What is that to you? You follow me.” Jesus’ reply is music to my ears. It’s a word that liberates us from the loveless, disheartening and fatal art of comparing ourselves with other people.
As a Christian, it’s so easy to become discouraged by the sheer number of “wise counsellors” out there. Book after book, conference after conference, DVD after DVD, telling me how to succeed in life or ministry. And all of them quietly implying that you and I are not making it. All of them telling us that we are missing the mark.
Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Parenthood could be better. Evangelism could be better. Youth ministry could be better. Finances could be better. Missions could be better. Prayer life could be better.
This is usually followed up with what we are lead to believe is the ultimate guide to what works. Buy this book. Attend this conference. Run this program. Do it this way.
Back to Peter. Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully.
His first thought was to make a comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?
That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare, compare, compare.
We long to know how we stack up in comparison to others as though there were some kind of high to be had if we could just find someone less effective than we are.
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with… [others]. But when they… compare themselves with one another, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12)
Jesus was tough on Peter. But look at the liberty and the freedom that comes with this kind of toughness.
Jesus will not judge you according to your superiority or inferiority over anybody. He will not be comparing your work with the work of other people. He will not be comparing your parenting, your ministry, your sacrifice, your godliness—or anything else—with other people.
Why not? Because other people are not the standard. They may represent a good example of faith, worthy of imitation (Hebrews 13:7), but they are not the standard by which God celebrates our efforts.
God is the standard (Ephesians 5:1).
The good news is that the gospel delivers us from the discouraging pastime of comparing ourselves with other mere mortals. Jesus has a work for you to do and it’s going to look different to the work He has for me. Moreover, He will provide the grace, gifts and strength to do that work.
The standard is God’s word. It’s the mirror we are to hold up to ourselves as well as each other (James 1:23-25).
Jesus will not be comparing your work, your gifts, your disposition, your prosperity, your suffering or your success with anyone else but Himself. Which means we don’t need to either.