The Standard April 29, 2021
Upon a close reading of the gospels, we see how twelve ordinary men from one small geographical area each have very distinct temperaments and reactions. We know that even biological siblings raised in the same household can have vastly unique tastes, natural tendencies, capabilities, and ways of thinking. One of the most fruitless efforts in the world is to try to put people neatly into categories. Rarely do any of us fit into a little box or under one label.
John, self-described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” writes in his gospel about the arrest of Jesus and the fulfilled prediction that Peter, often impulsive and quick to speak, would deny the Lord three times. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples in a few settings. During their third post-resurrection encounter, Jesus reinstates Peter. Three times he asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter replies that he does. Jesus commissions him to be a shepherd to the followers who will be under his care and then alludes to the manner in which Peter will die.
“’Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ 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.’ Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’” (John 21: 18-23)
After hearing an allusion to his future crucifixion, Peter’s immediate reaction is to ask, “what about him?” regarding John. In today’s terms, Jesus basically tells Peter to stay in his lane or to mind his own business.
How often do you and I become more concerned about what God is doing or not doing in the life of a friend than in our own lives? Do we typically get bogged down in comparing someone else’s abilities or accomplishments or attractiveness to ours? Do our thoughts tend to dwell on this ideal family or that flourishing congregation or business?
Jesus wants us to be free us from the restraints of comparing ourselves with others and instead to focus on and follow him. In Christ two truths converge. We have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” – the source of incomparable unity- as well as a unique path that God has set before each of us. (Ephesians 4:5-6a)
Bernard Grasset said, “To love is to stop comparing.” Let’s not be distracted by how we think others measure up better or worse than we do. Jesus frees us to face the enjoyments and challenges of our journey of faith without comparing ourselves to others. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)