Lord, what about him?

Lord, what about him?” – John 21:21

Even the disciples were susceptible to comparison. In the second half of John 21 we come across a section called “Jesus Reinstates Peter.” Throughout this exchange, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him and commands him to take care of his sheep. Each repeated question a reminder – but also a means of forgiveness – of the three times Peter denied Jesus. And then a final request – follow me.

Immediately following the command to follow Jesus, the next four words we read are: “Peter turned and saw…” He turned and saw another disciple, John, also following Jesus. But instead of simply turning back and keeping his gaze on his Savior, he asked a question that I have found myself asking too many times. What about him?

This is the trap of comparison. Peter clearly hears a command from his Savior who he has just seen risen from the dead and his first question is to ask about another disciple’s calling. And yet we do the same. What about him? What about her? We start by wondering what God is doing in the lives of our friends, our family, our colleagues. And then, our curiosity turns into comparison (should I be doing what they’re doing?) and cynicism (why shouldn’t I be doing what they’re doing?) 

Instead of letting Peter linger in the pit of comparison, Jesus graciously pulls him back out with one question – what is it to you? What is it to you if I’m doing something different in the life of John than in yours? Don’t you know that I equipped you for your unique calling and your calling alone? Don’t you know that not all callings will look the same, but each is equally important in the Kingdom of God? What is it to you?

Disciples were still susceptible to comparison and so are we, especially with the highlight reels of others literally at our fingertips. While it’s natural to “turn and see” what God is doing in those around us, that can’t be what distracts us from our own calling. We should celebrate with them without comparing ourselves to them. Rejoice for them without becoming resentful of them. This is easier said than done and is something I’ll probably have to work on the rest of my life. But I think freedom from comparison, especially within the church, will be a game changer and a notable example to the rest of the world, where using others’ lives as a measuring stick to your own is the norm.

So, the next time we’re tempted to ask “what about him, or her, or them?” may we instead say “what is it to me?” and refocus on what Jesus has uniquely asked of us.

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