The title for this post is inspired by a song from the award-winning musical Book of Mormon that really resonated with me and reminded me of something I often see in church settings. A sort of spiritual competition where people want to do more mission work than the next person, etc. It turns out this competition seems to have been going on for thousands of years. Notice the gospel of John, written by one of Jesus’ disciples, John. John 20:3-10 reads as follows:
“3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.”
John feels the need to tell us multiple times that he reached the tomb first, and also that he was the one who “saw and believed.” Interesting. You’ll also find that in John 21 John refers to himself multiple times as “the disciple Jesus loved.” So it seems that John, while divinely inspired to convey a critical gospel message, still feels the need to mention he ran faster than the other disciples and also that he was the disciple Jesus loved.
What’s fascinating to me is that Jesus seems to directly address this type of thinking in John 21. Jesus speaks to Peter and tells him a few things about his life and where he will be headed. Peter responds and asks Jesus about John. Notice John 21:18-22:
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Jesus’ response to Peter clearly outlines his thinking on this subject. Focus on your calling and your purpose in life, not on what someone else is doing. You need to pursue what God has called you to, and not concern yourself with others and how you compare to them. This message is one I often need to be reminded of.