Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Contentment never comes from constant comparison

Can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people? I can’t. But what is it about the human condition that leads us to compare ourselves to each other? Nobody has to teach us to do that. We just do it.

We live our lives and one day we meet someone who (in our perception) has something we don’t have. And that automatically means that person is happier than we are, so we compare our lives. We compare our personalities. We compare our achievements. And we compare our failures. In some cases, it ends with simple discontent, but in other cases it becomes raging jealousy.

The plain and simple truth is that our purpose isn’t to compare ourselves to each other. That’s not how a Christ-follower is supposed to live. A Christ-follower is supposed to compare themselves to God, to Christ, to live by the example He gave us. Not to live by the life of someone here we think is happy. Because I guarantee, if you pick the person down here you think is the happiest person in the world, if you really get to know them, you’ll discover that their life isn’t as fun as you think it is.

So instead of comparing our lives, which is just a distraction from the things that really matter, shouldn’t we work together?

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:1-2.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

After reading through Philippians a few times, I get the feeling that the Church at Philippi had some trouble getting along. Paul even goes so far as to call out names of people who he wanted to stop squabbling. And unfortunately, not much has changed in the Church in 2,000 years. The Church is still the epicenter of many arguments and much unpleasantness, all stemming from the fact that the believers within refuse to get along.

And from what I have seen and experienced, the root cause of why people can’t get along is that they focus on how they are different.

We focus on the differences in our life experience. We focus on the difference in our rearing. We focus on the difference of our level of education. We focus on our age. We focus on our preferences. We focus on our marital status. And we go a step further. Because someone else has money or education or Bible knowledge, we automatically assume they want nothing to do with us, and somehow we begin to resent them even though we don’t even know who they are. Or because someone is popular or well-liked in the church, we form opinions about them and don’t even try to get to know them.

And before you know it, we have convinced ourselves through assumptions and preconceived notions that we can’t be of one mind because we are too different.

But what does Philippians say? What did Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write to the people who refuse to work together?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Is there any?

Not total. Not complete. Not full. Not entire or whole or a word that indicates we have to be 100% alike.

Any.

Here’s how the Amplified Version puts it:

So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

We aren’t supposed to be the same people. God made us different and put us in different circumstances with different life experiences so that where one person is weak the other person can be strong. But because we like to compare ourselves, because we refuse to be happy with where we are, we only see the differences. So we don’t see how our differences can make us strong through Christ.

I may have absolutely nothing in common with the next person I talk to at my church. They may be married with six kids and love chick flicks and romance novels and only eat turnips. But if that person belongs to Christ, we are family. Everything else is insubstantial in the face of our connection through Christ. Christ is what matters.

So today, if you have formed preconceived notions about another believer, get rid of them. Drop them like a rock. Preconceived notions when you don’t know someone will only do damage, both to the person you assume things about and to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop looking at other people’s lives and wondering why they deserve to be happy when you don’t. And reach out to someone you don’t know. Prove your preconceived notions wrong. I guarantee you will.

And even if the person you reach out to turns out to be exactly opposite from you, you still have one thing in common. And that one thing, Christ, can make up for everything else.

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Peter and Paul

Do you ever read verses in the Scripture when you feel like it’s beating a dead horse? It’s funny to me how whoever chooses the Bible Verse of the Day at Biblegateway.com kind of seems to choose a topic and then finds verses to support it. But it’s also funny to me that the topics the Verse of the Day often repeats and repeats and repeats are the same topics people have a hard time remembering. So maybe that horse isn’t dead yet after all . . .

Today’s passage is Philippians 2:1-2.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Unity. Be of one mind. Work with one purpose. Agree wholeheartedly with each other. Love each other. Sound familiar? A lot like yesterday’s post. But different. Because it was written by a different person.

Yesterday’s verse (1 Peter 3:8) was written by Peter.

Today’s verse (Philippians 2:1-2) was written by Paul.

Yet they wrote the same thing, almost word for word.

And let’s just say this, folks, if Peter and Paul could find a way to be of one mind a purpose, anyone can. 

Peter was a fisherman, loud mouthed, abrasive, impulsive and uneducated.

Paul was a scholar, a high-ranking Jewish leader with more education than he probably knew what to do with.

Peter was flamboyant, an intense, emotional person.

From what I can tell, Paul was more reserved, more of a thinker.

Peter was one of the original twelve disciples Jesus chose, who lived with Him for three years.

Paul was chosen after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension (still chosen by Christ, but Paul didn’t follow Him while He was alive on Earth).

Peter was older.

Paul was younger.

And let’s not forget the most obvious disparity in their relationship. Peter led many to the Lord following Jesus’ ascension. . . . . And, at first, Paul killed them.

That was Paul’s job. Persecuting Christians. I believe He was present at the stoning of Stephen, another Christ follower mentioned in Scripture. It’s likely he held the coats of the men who threw the rocks.

Of course, when God got a hold of Paul, his life changed (and so did his name, as previously he was named Saul). But even if God forgets our sins, it’s hard for the people around us to do the same. Imagine the Disciples’ shock when Paul, who had murdered scores of their freinds and colleagues, walked into their midst claiming to be a follower of God. I can imagine the look on Peter’s face, as the impulsive one of the group. And I’m sure a great number of disagreements broke out. And I’m sure Peter and Paul may not have been the best of friends, but they were willing to put their differences aside and work together because they could agree on what mattered.

Is there a Christian you know who’s solid theologically but that you have a hard time getting along with?

Compare your relationship with that person to the relationship of Peter and Paul. And if you don’t know what to do with that person follow their example. Put aside the things that you don’t like and put aside the picky little details you can’t agree on and focus on the big picture.

Do you have to be best friends? No. When it comes to close friendships, you need to be with someone who encourages you or enriches you, and even though other Christians may mean well, they don’t always speak your language.

But you do need to agree. And you do need to support each other. And you do need to be of one mind and one purpose.

And if God could help two people as different from each other as Peter and Paul work together for the same goal, He can do the same for us. We just have to let Him.