Comparing Before and After
Every day we make comparisons. We look at two things and observe similarities. This is one of the chief ways we learn, particularly in childhood. A two year old looks at the food on her plate. She likes carrot sticks, she’s eaten them many times before. When she’s handed a celery stick, she makes a comparison. It’s sort of the same shape. It’s crunchy. It does look different, what with the colour and all, but it’s worth a try. Based on what she knows about one thing, she learns about another.
We also use comparisons to mark progress. In the fall, we repeatedly say things like, “This is the coldest day we’ve had so far.” And in the spring, we say things like, “I love this time of year when every day is longer than the previous one.” Of course the length of the day hasn’t changed, but we’re observing that we have more hours of sunlight to enjoy.
Those who are recovering from illness or surgery typically measure their progress by comparing how they feel today with how they felt yesterday. They look forward to being able to report that their appetite has improved, that their mobility is better, that they have less pain and so on.
Parents of children who are learning to play a musical instrument often encourage their offspring by telling them, “You couldn’t play music this hard last year,” or “You’ve really improved since you started practising an hour a day.”
In 1 Timothy 1:12-13, the apostle Paul made a comparison in his spiritual life. He started with were he was in the present and compared it to what he was like before. His exact words were: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
Paul had been a diligent dedicated persecutor of Christians before He met the Lord Jesus Christ personally. He comments that his behaviour was the result of ignorance and lack of faith. However, when he became a follower of Jesus, everything changed. Suddenly, he found himself on the forefront of this new spiritual phenomenon called the Church. He went from being it’s greatest threat to its greatest asset.
God has been changing people in the same way He changed Paul ever since the first Century. In individual lives, violence has given way to peace, hate to love, stinginess to generosity, foolishness to wisdom, fear to faith, insecurity to steadfast assurance and on goes the list. There’s no doubt that for many, meeting Jesus Christ personally has started the biggest life change ever.
When it comes to comparing before and after, there’s a world of difference between what a person is like before he or she believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and after that step of faith is taken.
© June 2008