I have a friend at church and we’re really similar. We have similar jobs, similar interests, similar style and we serve in the same areas. She’s brilliant and we’re good friends, but it’s because we’re similar that I sometimes struggle with our friendship. When you’re similar to someone, it can be a bit like looking in a mirror. Except that the mirror version of me (my friend) is so much better; she has a great job, she doesn’t experience anxiety, she believes in herself, she has so much to offer.
Now, I wouldn’t start comparing myself to Beyonce, because we basically have nothing in common, apart from the fact that we’re women and we both happen to be insane at dancing… yeah okay, that’s just Beyonce too. We compare ourselves to people who are like us.
As much as I want to be content in who I am, comparison so easily creeps in, whispering to me to be more like her in this way, and more like him in that way. I look around at others in church and think I have nothing to offer when Friendly Fergus is so brilliant at talking to new people and Soulful Sarah is so talented at singing. Comparison is the joy stealing, self-rejecting phenomenon which takes place when we forget God’s power and authority in creating us.
I’ve been reading and learning lately about the Corinthian church, and they struggled with comparison too. Paul writes to the Corinthians to say that they need to stop trying to be like others, but instead to embrace their own gifts and to value the role they can play in serving others.
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
God himself is one body, many parts; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know from the account of creation in Genesis that humanity is made in God’s image, a reflection of who God is. Again in humanity, we see one body, many parts. Paul explains that God’s desire for us is to live as one people, united and diverse. God himself has placed each part just as he wanted them to be. Which means that no one is empty handed and that every one of us has been perfectly made by God with gifts that can be used to serve him and others around us.
We’re to be united but not uniform. Our culture is extremely individualistic, where the individual is celebrated and upheld. If we all want to achieve the same thing, look the same and reach the top of the ladder that everyone is trying to climb then eventually we will all be exactly the same and there would be no body at all. Thankfully that isn’t God’s intention for us. Paul reminds the Corinthian church and us in 1 Cor 12:27 that ‘you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’
How are we to live this out in a culture of individualism though? Paul says we are to need one another, to depend on one another and to honour those who lack honour. Individualism pushes others down so that we might thrive, but Paul shows us that in order to thrive we cannot say ‘I don’t need you’ to any part of the body. A body can only flourish when each part is accepting of the role the other parts play. There might be some people in church that are weaker, Paul tells us they are indispensable and deserve greater honour. Our culture might say that a weak link drags you down, but God tells us we need them, just as they need us.
We can also take heart. We are not useless with nothing to offer. A body has many parts and we are one of them. We have been given gifts by God to serve others and do good, so we shouldn’t feel threatened or purposeless that Friendly Fergus is so friendly, in fact, it’s a wonderful thing. We should thank God for Friendly Fergus and the part he plays in the body and pray that God can use us to do good as well. Know that the person you see in the mirror (you), isn’t a lesser version of someone else you’re similar to, but instead is a person created by a loving, perfect God, who has made you just as he wanted you to be.
If we’re to forget comparison and heed Paul’s message then it’s time to accept the gifts that God has given us to serve others and do good. More than that, by accepting who God has made us to be, it frees us to joyfully celebrate the gifts God has given to others.
We each have a part to play and together we are one body.
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