We live in a culture full of comparison. Words like “better” and “more” dominate our vocabulary. Who looks better? Who has more? I think you get the point. And social media doesn’t help.
I’m drawn to a story about comparison in John 21. But first, let me set up the story.
After rising from the dead, Jesus appears to His disciples on a beach. While the disciples fish on a boat, Jesus appears on a shore. But the disciples don’t know it’s Jesus.
The Bible says, “Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’” (v. 5 ESV).
The disciples have nothing. So Jesus tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. As a result, the disciples haul in a load. Well, they try. It’s actually too much of a load to haul in.
That’s when John recognizes it’s Jesus. “… When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea” (v. 7 ESV).
Umm … okay. What possesses Peter to jump head over heels for Jesus? It’s called denying Jesus three times. You see, after Jesus is arrested, Peter denies Jesus three times. Why? Because Peter is afraid of being punished (see John 18). Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him three times (see John 13:38).
Now since the resurrected Jesus stands before his face, Peter is eager to seek redemption. And he does.
Jesus asks the same question to Peter three times. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Each time, Peter says he does. In response, Jesus tells him to feed God’s lambs and sheep. In other words, Jesus reminds Peter of his call to pastor God’s people.
Then, Jesus tells Peter, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) After saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (v. 18-19 ESV).
A lot is happening in this moment. Jesus is forgiving Peter, directing Peter, and even giving him an idea of how he will die! But that’s when Peter begins to compare himself to another guy.
The next verse reads, “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’
Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (v. 20-22 ESV).
In this story, Peter shows us how to compare ourselves to one another. First, turn around. Away from Jesus. Towards other people. Then, see them. Look at what they’re doing. Look at what they have. Wonder about the differences you find. It’s called comparison.
But here’s the good news: Jesus tells us how to keep our distance from comparison. Follow Him. It’s easier said than done, but it works. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we don’t focus on the lives of others.
You can’t focus on Jesus and people at the same time. You’re either following behind Jesus or looking behind yourself. Where are your eyes? Who are you trying to please?
The Apostle Paul says, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Gal. 1:10 NLT).
It’s just as easy for us to compare ourselves as it was for Peter. Actually, it’s easier. But the truth of God’s Word remains the same.
The key to overcoming comparison is keeping your eyes on Jesus. He has an amazing plan for your life. You’re Peter in this story. Jesus loves you. He forgives you. He is calling you. And the life He has for you is beautiful.
You can stop comparing now.
Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.