A little while ago I was visiting a friend of mine when she said something that just stuck with me. During my visit with her she said, “Well, Gina’s a better Christian than me.” I couldn’t seem to shake that comment. It kept running through my head over and over for days afterwards. I ended up bringing the comment back up to her and explaining that my mind had been stewing over it and she replied, “I meant it more along the lines that you follow the teachings and beliefs more than I.” So I got to thinking, am I really a “better” Christian than her simply because I worship and show devotion in a different way than she does?
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:1-5 NLT). This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Let us pray.
Lord, I want to thank You for bringing all of us together today to hear Your Word. It is a true blessing that we can worship You together as a church family. Please help all of us to be kind to everyone we encounter, but to also be kind to ourselves. Lord, not one thing or one person will bring us the peace that You offer us when we have a relationship with You. Help us to not focus on man-made rules or regulations, but to instead focus on You. The more we focus on You, the more we can show the world who You are through our thoughts, actions and words. Lord, I pray that as we go through this week, we take a little extra time to reflect on what (or who) we are focusing on and that You will help us make the necessary adjustments. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
When the Jewish Christians came back to Rome, they found that the Christian culture there was now more Gentile in character. The Gentile Christians were not interested in going back to the Jewish traditions. Of course, this resulted in conflict between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Paul wrote Romans in attempts to ease the bitterness between the two groups. His goal was to expose that neither side of the argument was better than the other. Paul specifically focuses on educating the Jewish Christians that following the Law didn’t make them better than the Gentile Christians. In fact, relying on the Law for righteousness made them hypocrites and weak. In Romans 2:1, Pauls says, “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.”
A simple saying that comes to mind after reading these passages is “Comparison is a thief of joy.” I think this can be applied to both sides. If we feel like we are not measuring up or being “good enough,” then we get bummed out because we feel like we should be doing things the same way as our peers. On the flip side of that, if we spend our time gossiping or talking badly about someone not doing things the way we would, it makes us bitter and negative. Returning back to my friend from the beginning, she dealt with this kind of negativity at times. The summer between our freshman and sophomore year of college, she delivered her first baby. Two and a half years later she had her second, but also found herself as a single mom. Being twenty-one with two young babies with very little help is a serious struggle. Not only is it a struggle, but the judgment that comes with it can sometimes be unbearable. My friend had to deal with the “you’re not doing it correctly” mentality from those around her.
Another person I know moved out at eighteen against her parents wishes to live with her boyfriend, who later became her fiance. They never married so they lived out of wedlock for the entire four years that they were together. At twenty-two, she decided to leave the relationship and move back home. Shortly after that she was academically suspended from the university she was attending. So now she had no degree, very few friends, a failed long term relationship and was living on her mom’s couch. This person fell victim to comparing herself to how other people lived and found herself feeling like she wasn’t good enough because she was “failing” at life. This person wanted the marriage, the kids, the career and the white picket fence and seeing everyone around here have that while she just kept hitting dead ends was difficult for her. This person felt stuck and alone. This person was me.
Now, I know that all of the things that I am telling you sound super negative and depressing. I promise you that they aren’t. While these situations were difficult for both of us, what we didn’t realize at the time was our sufferings were shaping us into who God created us to be. The hard seasons were helping us build our endurance. They were strengthening our character. They were helping us learn to lean on the Lord for peace, hope and salvation. So even though we weren’t living our lives the way you would think a Christian should, God was working in us and through us. We just didn’t know it yet.
Romans 8:18-19 says, “ Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”
The Christian community should not focus on who reads the Bible the most or who dresses the “right” way or who lives a “perfect” life. There is no such thing as perfection in a broken world. The only perfect being to walk this earth was Jesus. Instead, we should focus on helping those around us who are going through their difficult seasons. Just because times of suffering are supposed to help us grow into the person we are meant to be, doesn’t mean we can’t offer comfort or help to others during those times. A saying from the movie Robots says, “See a need, fill a need.” As disciples of Christ, we are supposed to help those who need it without judgment or expecting anything in return. Unfortunately, we tend to over complicate things. Keep it simple. See a need. Fill a need.
We shouldn’t judge someone’s situations because we don’t know what lesson God is trying to teach them. We don’t know where they are on the path God has laid out for them. We are not all on the same journey, but we are all saved by grace through faith. Next time a negative thought about someone pops into your head, shut it down and show that person love and grace instead because just like the Jewish Christians verses the Gentile Christians, neither one of us is superior to the other.