What is that to you?
Let's be honest, we all at times struggle with either insecurity, jealousy or an unhealthy competitiveness. Or maybe it's just me! Over the summer I read through the John's Gospel and was so inspired by the way Jesus, the God who came to bring life interacted with broken, ordinary people. The gospel doesn't hide the frailties and complexities of people but paints a picture of the transformation that can happen when Jesus is present.
One key character is Peter
Full of passion and determination but with a real knack for getting things hopelessly wrong, Peter is most vividly seen when he denies Jesus. In John 21 there is a beautiful encounter where Jesus re-instates Peter. He welcomes him back in to the fold and empowers him to carry on following Christ. The challenge is laid out - feed my sheep, but also the warning that now Peter would have to live a life which involved surrender, following Christ and being led to places where he would really rather avoid (John 21:18) As the enormity of this call rests heavy on Peter's heart I can imagine him looking at the other disciples - am I alone in this? Will others suffer to? Peter then looks at the disciple John and asks Jesus, 'What about him?' Jesus replies,
'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me' (John 21:22).
The comparison game
I relate to Peter's question. I catch myself looking at others and thinking, what about them? Are they achieving more than I am? Does God seem to be using them more powerfully? Are they more popular? Do they seem to be more effective in what they do? The problem with these questions is we can then feel insecure about our own walk with God. We end up striving to play 'catch up.' We push ourselves to achieve, not out of a love for Christ, but because in the eyes of man we don't want to get left behind. We need to be so careful that our insecurity doesn't force us to run a race that is not marked out for us.
The other danger is we look at others and begin to judge. They're faking it! They may write amazing songs, but have you seen how they speak to others! The accusations fly around in our minds. This trail of thought can lead to nothing good whatsoever. In keeping a jealous eye on someone, spiritually we begin to diminish and shrivel up inside.
Every path is different
Perhaps we need to hear Jesus words again in terms of what he calls others to do, 'What is that to you?' We're called to follow Christ. Every path will be different. Every journey will take varied turns. We need to learn in our lives not to lag behind what God is doing, but also not to run ahead.
(This article was first published on Bible Reflections in September 2009, in a different format. It is used with kind permission from Worship Central.)