When We Are Others-Minded in a Self-Minded Way

Do you recall that scene in John 21 where Jesus restores Peter to ministry? Peter had denied Jesus three times, and so, Jesus gives him three opportunities to declare that he loves Him. It is a beautiful picture of the mercy that Jesus came to give to all of us who, like Peter, are guilty of denying Christ in many ways. After such kindness shown to Peter, what would you expect his response to be? An unbroken gaze of adoration toward Jesus? Unflinching eagerness to obey Christ in his next decision? Actually, looking over at the other disciples, Peter turns his attention to his friend, John.

Now, it’s no secret that God’s Word instructs us to be others-minded. The second greatest commandment calls for loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). Paul charges us to “count others more significant than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3) and to “let each of us please his neighbor for his good” (Romans 15:2). And let’s not forget Jesus’ own definition of greatness: to follow Him in the humility of a servant (Mark 10:43-45). Clearly, our faith does not exalt self to the neglect of others.

But there is a way for us to be others-minded that is a danger to our souls. There is a way for us to think of others with discontentment in our hearts as we compare our lives to theirs. We can be mindful of others in a self-minded manner. If we’re honest, this kind of thinking can drive the time we spend on social media—“How can they afford a house like that?” “I’m glad I don’t have that problem with my kids.” “I can’t believe they got together without me!” “My church wouldn’t ever do anything so shallow.” “It must be nice to have so much free time.”

Such thoughts do not reflect care for the friends or family members you see on your feed, but rather show a desire to feel better about your situation. When the people you see are worse off, your life seems pretty good, and you are temporarily gratified. But when they’re flourishing, your life seems dismal or boring, and you may even feel like you need to make adjustments to improve your situation in a self-oriented way.

Where is Christ in this? We must take care that this self-minded way of thinking of others does not motivate our scrolling and thus distract us from our Savior. In no uncertain terms, Jesus made this principle clear to Peter.

Returning to John 21, we see the glorious scene of Peter’s restoration after denying Christ three times (vv. 15-17). But then Jesus chooses to give Peter an indication of how he will die, followed by the command, “Follow me” (vv. 18-19). Jesus’ words then provoke Peter to turn and ask about John, “Lord, what about this man?” (vv. 20-21). It appears to be an innocent enough question. Peter and John had both worked closely together in service to Jesus after all. But Jesus’ response is instructive for us as we consider self-minded thinking of others. He says, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (v. 22).

Jesus is essentially telling Peter that John’s future is none of his business. He had just mercifully restored Peter to ministry and commanded him afresh to follow Him, but Peter’s eyes drifted from Jesus to seemingly compare himself to John. This is why Christ must again command him emphatically, “You follow me!”

J. C. Ryle is helpful in recognizing the importance of Jesus’ words here:

“The words ‘Follow me’ should always teach us that our first duty in religion is to look first to our own souls, and to take heed that we ourselves follow Christ, and walk with God. Whatever others may do or not do, suffer or not suffer, our own duty is clear and plain. People who are always looking at others, and considering others, and shaping their own course accordingly commit a great mistake.”¹

In light of this text, we should all take some time to evaluate our use of social media, and our motivations for scrolling through our feeds. Do you need to be confronted with Jesus’ words, “What is that to you? You follow me”? Think of how much good could be done in your life if you turned from a self-minded view of others online and focused your soul on following Jesus from the inside-out. Instead of the fleeting gratification that comes through comparing yourself to others, you will know the joy of Christ as you abide in His love through obeying His commands (John 15:10-11). The former saps your soul of life, the latter fills your soul with life. Will you be consumed by updates or a life of following your Savior?

Note: This article originally appeared on thecbcd.org. We encourage you to visit The Center for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship where you can find helpful, biblical resources by a number of trusted pastors and authors.

¹ J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, John, vol. 3, 340.

Brent Osterberg




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