Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at 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 him?” Jesus said, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” (John 21:20-21 NIV)
Families are so interesting, aren’t they? Parenting is the most difficult job in the world. In my family there was often “playful” banter among my brothers about who mom or dad loved more. At times we would confront mom and dad about our perceived unfair treatment in comparison to another brother. A characteristic of our imperfect human nature is a sense of inadequacy and wounded self-esteem. Our response is to relentlessly compare ourselves to others. This sense of inadequacy can lead to unhealthy lifestyles, an inordinate need to control, a tendency to overcompensate, bullying and more. These behaviors play out in family dynamics. They are also part of all organizations and systems, even in the church! In fact, my mantra with congregations and staff for decades has been, “People do not check their dysfunctions at the door of the church.” So, don’t expect the Church to always be a glimpse of heaven on earth!
John 21 gives a wonderful glimpse into this human condition of woundedness and desire to be favorably compared with our siblings. Jesus has just restored Peter to his place as a disciple by cooking breakfast for Peter with fish that Jesus helped him catch! Breakfast is around a charcoal fire, the same kind of fire burning when Peter loudly denied Jesus three times. Jesus offers forgiveness and restoration even as he confirms Peter’s love for him and reminds Peter of the shepherding ministry to which is called. Yet, something in Peter is not satisfied. Looking at presumably Jesus “favorite” or “closest” disciple, Peter asks, “What about him?” How true to human nature! We lose the joy of what we have as we strain our neck to see what someone else has! Jesus basically tells Peter, “Don’t worry about him, YOU follow me.”
Jesus’ graceful reminder to me and to all is to keep our focus on Him. Comparing ourselves to other people limits our own potential, vision and ultimately our contentment. God has given each of us gifts, talents, abilities, opportunities, possessions, relationships by which we are blessed and with which we can use to serve. Bask in the love that God has for you! Do not spoil your joy or contentment or purpose in life by looking around at others. The miracle of new life and forgiveness and restoration is offered to everyone! Receive those gifts with joy! Then, hear the voice of Jesus as he says to us each moment of every day, “Follow me!”
Marvelous God, thank you for the Good News of your forgiving and restoring love. Even when we falter or fail, you are ready to pick up again. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Give us the desire and strength to follow Jesus with clarity of purpose and joy. Amen