Comparing Yourself To Others? Grace Sets Us Free
Sad to say in Christian circles, the desire to see where we stack up against our fellow man (and woman) seems often just as epidemic.
Case in point…
Some of my friends often complain to me that the people in their respective churches, “just aren’t serious about their relationship with God.” An American I know recently told me about how the congregation he attends in the States are only concerned with themselves. “They are just so inward looking Steve. They pay lip service to Christ but don’t want to make the sacrifices a real relationship with God requires.”
As painful as statements like that are to me these days I have a certain sympathy for them because…well… that used to be me. That was the way I previously viewed much of the “body of Christ”. In fact the main reason I went overseas as a “missionary” (a term that really needs to be retired) back in 1989 was because in 1980’s evangelical American Christianity when God “called you into ministry” (another suspect term) you typically either became a pastor or a missionary. I honestly thought:
* do I want to become a pastor and spend all day counseling suburban middle-class problems?
* do I want to be a missionary, visit new lands, and bring the gospel to people who hadn’t heard it yet?
(Before you judge me to harshly keep in mind I was an idealistic 22 year old with a sincere heart… and a less developed brain! 🙂 )
However when I experienced and understood the grace God has shown me more fully, it changed not only the way I viewed myself before God, but the way I viewed other people as well!
I no longer had to feel this frustration with where people should, or should not be, in their relationship with God. I could genuinely love, accept, and encourage people no matter where they were on their journey. (Something Jesus demonstrated time and time again in the gospels)
See, the minute I put someone on the “performance graph line” of where they are “spiritually” it immediately takes me out of grace and puts me on the same performance scale I just placed them on. Then I can take a little pride in the fact that I am “closer to God” than that person is. But when I perceive someone else to be performing better than I, “treadmill Christianity” begins.
Face it, there is always someone better than yourself!
Jesus often had to deal with this comparison game among his disciples. At one point after his resurrection Jesus is sitting with his followers and giving them words of encouragement. He gives Peter personal insight into his future and a call to remain faithful…but this isn’t enough for Peter.
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Our Lord knew mankind’s predilection for comparisons and even more how it always derails us in our true ability to “Follow Me” as he invites.
Grace free us from those comparisons. Under grace we all stand on level ground before God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
There is a great, often overlooked, freedom that comes when you no longer have to compare yourself to others and boast…
…because someone can always boast just a bit more.
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