Stop Comparing and Competing

Blog 4.25.22

Stop Comparing and Competing

Everything with Theo nowadays is comparison and competition. He’s just trying to organize and order his world, but I am often caught in the crosshairs of his comparisons. Last week, he told me, you look good, but I look better than you! That hurt a little, but I understand what he said, and I don’t disagree. At the time, he did look better than me. We love to reduce people to simple factors and label them into neat categories. For Theo, there are several categories that you can fall into Goliath, Paul Bunyan, or Dad. And just to be clear, I am not at the top of the spectrum in any category. I also recognize how this need for comparison and competition is based on maturity. Yet how often do we get caught up in our own comparisons, maybe not out loud but internally? 

We love to do this with the worthiness of God’s grace and sin. This person is more worthy of God’s grace because they are a “good” person. Or this person is “hopeless” because they have failed too many times. When we make statements like this, we compare sins and compete for God’s grace. Thankfully this is not how the gospel works. 

In Luke chapter 8, we read a snippet about Jesus’ ministry as we read:

Luke 8:1-3 
Soon afterward, he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

For many, when they hear the backstory of someone like Mary of Magdalene, they think nothing of it. But here was a woman that was absolutely tortured in her life. Many would consider being possessed by one demon too far gone, unapproachable, untouchable. If one demon was horrific, then certainly seven would be catastrophic. However, Luke records this as a byline to the more remarkable story. Jesus made it part of his routine to approach the unapproachable and touch the untouchable. For Mary, these actions were anything but routine; they were transformative and unimaginable. 

That is the thing about sin and grace. One sin is too many, and grace is unearned. For young Theo, it is easy to compare and compete for every aspect of our standings—who is taller, faster, stronger? However, these metrics are of little value when we consider the comparison of sin. Because not even one corruption could never be tolerated—and we could never pay for the debt that would be owed for one sin. That is why we all fall short. 

These are elementary principles for us who stand on the other side of grace. However, our challenge is to stop seeing those around us as who they are or who they once were. It would be easy to label Mary as the “demon-possessed” woman and never consider the life that was changed by Jesus. But that is not who she became, and Jesus saw every facet of her life, just like he sees every aspect of our lives. Can you imagine the disciples when they saw Mary coming? They would have categorized her as a lost cause and avoided her altogether. Jesus instead saw her despite the outward appearance or inner turmoil. We have to challenge ourselves to see people in the same way. 

And for some, we have to change the way we view ourselves. Perhaps we see ourselves as having “fewer” sins than those around us. Newsflash, it doesn’t matter you are still dependent on grace. Or maybe we have labeled ourselves too far gone or untouchable in some areas of our lives. Regardless of how you view yourself, we are all dependent on the grace that God freely gave to each one of us through His Son. 

Romans 5:15 
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

If we change our perspective, we can change how we interact with the world. I think of the change that came about in Mary’s life. It’s funny how things turn out; for Mary, Jesus was the first person to see her for who she truly was, and in turn, Mary was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. 

John 20:14-18 
“Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her.

I pray we can see ourselves for who we really are, others for who they really are, and God’s grace for what it really is. If we can do this, we can stop comparing and competing.