Sunday, April 22, 2012
What is that to you?
At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus predicts that Peter will ultimately be crucified because of his willingness to follow Jesus’ call. Jesus remarks that “…when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will…carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18. Upon receiving what must have been very unwelcome news, Peter asks Jesus about the fate of his fellow disciple, John. Jesus responds, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:22. Peter abided by his master’s direction to follow Him, at whatever the cost. Christian tradition has it that Peter was ultimately crucified, upside down, for his faith. In contrast to Peter, John lived a long earthly life. This exchange between Peter and Jesus is noteworthy not only for the fact that Jesus was predicting two very different “callings” for two of his closest disciples, but also Jesus’ lack of explanation for these two different callings. Why wasn’t Peter allowed a longer earthly life, during which time Peter could have provided leadership to the church? Why was Peter’s life shortened by a brutal martyr’s death? Why wasn’t it John, rather than Peter, who was executed? Heather and I have sometimes envied other families who have their entire family intact. Why can’t we be like them? Why have we been “called” to be a family with a missing member? In his book, “The Call,” Os Guiness encourages us to discern the nature of our life’s calling from deep-seated desires that, if left unchecked, result in envy. He writes, “Envy will not embrace what is fate-given, chance-given, or God-given.” According to Guiness, envy is “essentially profane,” and that if we are guilty of envy, our grudge is “not ultimately against the person whom we envy, but against God.” In order to avoid developing a “grudge against God” through envy, it seems imperative to keep Biblical truth in focus. Do we think that God exists to serve us—to make our life “fair,” to serve our every whim and desire, even misplaced ones? Or, do we exist to bring Glory to God, for the ultimate good of ourselves and our fellow believers? Is life all about an egalitarian sense of fairness in accomplishment and consumption, or about something more? For Heather and me, it seems that in order avoid the unhappiness that accompanies envy, we have to avoid focusing “horizontally” on those families around us that have I all of their members intact, and to focus “vertically” on our God and His great promises in Christ Jesus. I hear Jesus telling us, “What is that to you that I have granted other families the opportunity to live together for a longer period of time? Have I not blessed you, Cory and Heather, with every spiritual blessing, justified each of you and Micah freely by grace through my blood shed on the cross, and promised you eternal salvation?” Are not these promises sufficient for you? Is this not a wonderful calling, sufficient for a lifetime of grateful adoration of Me?