Compare and contrast

Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. Gal 6:4

The verse above reminds me of the story Jesus told about a holier-than-thou type who thanked God that he wasn’t like other low-life sinners. When he measured himself against thieves, adulterers, and the much-maligned tax collector who stood praying nearby, he felt pretty good about himself by comparison.

Jesus didn’t feel very good about him, though. As a matter of fact, He said that the tax collector, who recognized that he was indeed a sinner and who prayed and asked God to have mercy on him, was the one who went home forgiven.

Comparison has become a hallmark of American life, and we’re continually inundated with one choice or the other trying to convince us why it’s the clear winner:

  • Coke or Pepsi?
  • Lowes or Home Depot?
  • Windows or Mac?
  • Candidate A or Candidate B?

It can be really tempting to try and gauge how well I’m doing in my Christian walk by comparing myself to someone else. It typically goes something like this: “I’m not doing so bad – at least not compared to _____________.” (Fill in the blank with your favorite serial killer or tax collector.)

I know that may be typical human nature but, as a Christian, it is absolutely a dangerous hole I need to avoid falling into. (As opposed to the fun hole Alice fell into when she ended up in Wonderland and got to drink tea with Johnny Depp and play croquet using a flamingo.) I would hate to think I was nothing but another holier-than-thou star of one of Jesus’ parables…

When I became a Christian almost two years ago I found myself looking around for Christian guys to serve as role models for my own new life in Christ. From the outset, God blessed me with several friends who were really fine examples of totally committed followers of Jesus.

And even though every believer should live the kind of life that can actually serve as an example to others (Tit 2:7), it’s important that the only person I follow as a role model for the Christian life is the one worthy of actually being that role model: Jesus, the benchmark, the example, the nonpareil. No one else – apostle nor saint – can even come close.

The writer of the book of Hebrews (4:15) reminds us that even though Jesus never once sinned – never… nunca – He understands what it’s like to live as a human; he himself was human and watched us struggle through it up close and personal, with all of our weaknesses and temptations, for 33 years.

So, while I’m blessed with the fellowship of lots of fine Christian brothers (and I thank God daily for them and their influence), there’s only One person I need to compare myself to. And even though I will always fall short of His example, it’s important that, just like the apostle Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Php. 3:14)

“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending to Earth your best argument for a life lived free from sin, but one who was still able to empathize with my struggles. And even though I know that being just like Jesus is, for the most part, an unattainable goal, help me to continue to look only to His example and not to anyone else’s.”

So who is your example? For me the choice is obvious…

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