Helpful and unhelpful comparisons
At the GAFCON conference we were addressed by Dr Ashley Null, an American Anglican who has a wide-ranging ministry—when not researching historic Anglicanism he acts as a sports chaplain. His talks reflected both interests, at once both pastoral and academic.
He made interesting comments about comparison. We all compare ourselves to others, no less ministers than everyone else! Comparison can be destructive; a tool of Satan to lead us into despair and self-loathing. And yet the Bible contains examples where we are invited to make comparisons between ourselves and others. One place is Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (this caught my ear as we had just read these passages at church). If comparison can be soul destroying, why does God ask us to do it?
Ashley’s suggestion was that Biblical comparison leads to an appreciation of how God calls each of us to make our own unique contribution—it’s God’s design that I’m not like others. Unhelpful comparison irons out these differences, falsely assuming a common standard that we must meet. When we predictably fail to reach this standard, we lose the joy of knowing God’s individual purpose for us and despair sets in.
May the Holy Spirit reveal to all our own joyful place in God’s purposes!