Monday, June 8, 2015

Their Path vs. My Path - Destructive Comparisons

Three months ago, I began a long trek through the gospels. At one chapter a day, I have finally finished. My method was simple. Read through the chapter, underline things that stick out, go back through the chapter with a journal and write down the underlined bits and thoughts/comments/cross referencing.
What better way to wrap up my journey through the gospels than with my favorite chapter in all of the gospel narrative? If you have never read John 21, you really should. It is packed full of awesome stuff. From the way people react to difficult situations, to trust. From what it looks like to actively follow Jesus, to insecurity. The sheer number of things this chapter alludes to is enough for me to spend several blog posts dissecting, but I shall only focus on one.

When most people think of John 21, they think of the all too familiar passage where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him in verses 15-17.
There are many speculations about this passage. What Jesus meant by "Do you love me more than these?" in the first verse could mean a variety of things. Did Peter love the Lord more than he loved his fellow disciples? Did he love Jesus more than his fellow disciples loved Jesus? (For Peter often claimed to have devotion that outweighed the others.) Or maybe, did Peter love Jesus more than he loved these things (his job and his fishing gear)?
Whatever it is Jesus exactly meant by the question, we don't know. Maybe Jesus wasn't specific on purpose. Maybe he phrased it the way he did so Peter could bring to mind whatever he might be putting before God in his mind. Whatever the case, I do believe the threefold question was designed to stand in contrast to the time just a week or so before when Peter denied Jesus three times.

While this is a good passage, people often don't know that the third time Jesus says, "Feed my sheep," isn't the end of the conversation. In fact, it's not even the end of His thought. Within the same breath of saying, "Feed my sheep," Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, 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."
As explained by John, who was both listening to this conversation between Peter and Jesus and lived to see Peter's famous upside-down crucifixion, Jesus said this to "indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God."(v. 19)

As you read on, Peter looks back over his shoulder while he and Jesus are walking and talking, and sees John following them. Why John followed them, he doesn't say, but Peter does seem concerned as to what God's plan is for John as well. He asks, "Lord, what about him?" (v.21)
There's some history between John and Peter you should know. Basically it goes like this. Jesus had about 70-80 disciples. The Twelve were his closest. The others would follow most of the time, but the Twelve rarely left his side and were with him during most of the most important things. There were three of the Twelve who were even closer than the others. Simon (who Jesus called Peter, which means "the rock"), John, and his brother, Andrew. Not much is said about Andrew, and, honestly, I think that's because he got it better than John or Peter ever did. If you notice, Peter and John were always trying to prove which one of them was the best. They both wanted to be Jesus' favorite. It kind of makes you wonder if the reason John refers to himself as "the one whom Jesus loved," as he did countless times through out his writings, was because he felt left out after Simon was given a new name by Jesus.

So naturally, with all this competition going on, Peter wanted to know what the Lord had in store for John. Just like Peter, we often look at what God is doing in other people's lives and wonder if God is handing us the short end of the stick. I mean His will in their lives looks so much better than what He's doing for me.

Sometimes, I think, we get so distracted looking at God's path for someone else that we stumble off our own and get lost in the woods around us. According to Jesus' reply to Peter's concern, He seems to hold similar sentiment as I do.

He says, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
Jesus wasn't saying John would live forever or anything like that, but asking Peter if he would still trust and love his Lord even if His will was for John to live forever while Peter died.

What I think this all comes down to is whether or not you trust God's will in your life. Yes, His will for someone else's life may look more exciting, fun, or glamorous, but each path has it's mountains, struggles, and pitfalls. We just don't always see that in another person's life because we're looking at it from the outside.
If the answer is "Yes, I do trust God's will in my life," then you shouldn't worry about whether His will for someone else is better than his will for you. 
We just must stop comparing our lives to other's and start trusting God's plan with wonder and faith.

Your path may seem narrow and rocky, but God has some glorious things to show you along the way.

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