Thought for the Month (September 2009)

People working in childcare are being encouraged to emphasise the uniqueness of each individual child, and we as Christians would agree that God made each one of us different. That difference is not just in the superficial things of hair colour, eye colour, shape, size and the myriad combinations of them but also in the deeper things of personality, temperament, intellectual ability and also spirituality. It is an amazing fact that nowhere else in the world is there someone else who is exactly like me! Hurrah, I hear you all say, and I would probably agree with you I would prefer not to run into another me!

And yet even though we know we are all different we all have that tendency to look at others and compare ourselves to them. We look at our friends and say "Why can't I do this the way he/she does?" "Why aren't I as good looking as her/him?" Or we go the other way and say "Thank goodness I'm not like her/him!" Where does this come from, I wonder?

Recently I was reading in 'the Word for today' and came across 'Beatitudes for parents'. One beatitude said 'Blessed is the parent who engages not in the comparison of his child with others, for precious unto each is the rhythm of his own growth.' We've all come across the parent who tells everyone how wonderfully advanced their child is - so much more than everyone else's - and equally we've all met those who bemoan the fact that their child doesn't match up to others. So maybe this is where it all starts and each successive generation carries it on.

In 2 Corinthians 10:12 Paul says that those who compare themselves with each other are without understanding or ignorant! We are not to use family members, friends, neighbours, celebrities, as our yardstick but to rejoice in the fact that we all have our own uniqueness given by God.

Comparing ourselves to others can lead to problems. Jesus illustrated this very graphically in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee made a very public show of thanking God that he was better than everyone else, but Jesus said that when he went home he was not right with God.

Paul likened the Church to a body a single entity with many members all needed for the working of the whole thing (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). So within our churches we all have our part to play and when we find that part and accept that this is how God is going to use us we are contributing to the whole and are just as much a part of the body as someone else who may be doing something we deem to be more high-profile. We all have our unique place and purpose in God's eyes.

I always feel rather sorry for Martha who complained about being left to do all the work when Jesus visited, but it's fair to say that without her offer of hospitality it was after all her house and all the work she did, Mary and presumably the disciples would not have been able to listen to His teaching. Mary was commended for her choice but I hope Martha was thanked for what she did because it was important too and arose from her own heart.

So we need to see ourselves as unique, with our own special place first of all in God's heart and then in the church we have chosen to be part of. We may wash up, do flowers, serve coffee, do the reading, say prayers all essential parts of the life of the church. Each one of us will probably do whatever we do differently because we bring to the job our own uniqueness. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we all were the same and did things in exactly the same way, and the same goes for the church.

As Christians we try to be like Jesus and so we should but we remain individual, different. We need to know what He has given us a heart for (it will be something that we are good at) and then do it without comparing ourselves to anyone else.

Whatever we do, let us do it to the glory of God.

Jacqui Ferdinando

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church