Tuesday, September 22, 2015

You're Better Than That

You may recall that in yesterday's post I mentioned that this past Sunday my pastor gave a sermon that I really didn't want to hear because I was craving silence. Nonetheless, the sermon was a good one and some of it struck home. Matthew talked about how comparing ourselves to others almost never leads to anything good. Today we will will follow up that thought as we take a look at how comparison can be a major roadblock when traveling the #NarrowRoad.

Most of us feel like failures when it comes to living life the way we think Jesus intended for us to live. We sin. We fail. We head down the wrong paths and find ourselves lost along the way. But truth be told, most of this happens in private, in the dark places of our souls. Most of our sin and the times we fall away from a Godly life are times no one knows about but us and God. We look at the smiling happy faces in church each week and hear the stories of how strong others are in their faith and it is easy to believe that we are the only ones struggling. So many people are so good at appearing to have their act together (and let's be honest here- I was among the very best at that charade for a while) when in fact there is great turmoil going on underneath that shiny, smooth surface. That's where comparison rears its ugly head. We KNOW what is in our hearts, and we see only the fabricated surface of others. When we compare those things, we always come out on the short end. And those comparisons often lead us to bad theology and an even worse question- How can God possibly love a screw up like me?

For many years I attended the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Conventions, and for many of the years the "orientation" talk was given by the late Mike Yaconelli. As Yac would try to help people make the most of their time at the convention, he would often caution attendees against making too many comparisons. He warned against comparing your ministry to one in a completely different situation. He told us to be careful of trying to take things home that sounded wonderful on paper but had no business in our local churches. And he warned us not to put any of the leaders, teachers and speakers - including (maybe especially) him-  on any sort of spiritual pedestal. "There is a great danger," Yac would tell us, "in comparing what you know about yourself to what you don't know about them.

That same warning applies to each of us in everyday life. We seldom end up comparing apples to apples; instead we compare our store bought apples to someone else's fresh picked peaches, and we always suffer in that comparison. This leads to "stinkin' thinking" and the feeling that we are of no value in God's eyes because we fall short of some warped idea of perfection. And we do fall short. But God knew that was going to happen. If our #NarrowRoad series is teaching us anything I hope it is that this journey is not about our ability to be good and do the right things, it is about God having saved us through Jesus. On our own we will always be train wrecks. It is grace that allows us back on the trail, and grace that makes us whole over and over again. We should never feel that we suffer in comparison to others who travel with us, nor should we ever feel superior to those we meet along the way. We are all children of God, which makes us special, unique and valuable. As Pastor Matthew pointed out, we are God's masterpieces, each of us in our own ways. And it just doesn't get any better than that. There are not levels of God's love. There is only the love of God whose name is Jesus- and that covers all of us. Amazing grace indeed!

So next time you feel down about your spiritual journey because you don't have a God Is My Co-Pilot (horrible theology; why isn't God driving?) bumper sticker, sit on the front row in church, sing louder than the choir and tell everyone the wonders of your prayer life like Sister Bertha Betterthanyou, remember- you don't know the things God is forgiving her for in private. Like the fact that her famous "homemade" fried chicken is actually from KFC! All you need to know is that God grants grace to her, and to you, and to all of us. That's one comparison where we are all equal, and we all win. Peace on the journey, my friends!

Because of Grace,

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