This is a guest post by Amanda Criss.
While motherhood often brings women together, it can also highlight differences that challenge our love for one another. More than ever before, in this world of Motherhood-by-Instagram, opportunities abound for comparison, criticism, and misunderstandings.
Quite often I’m tempted to judge or criticize a mom who parents differently than I do, feeds her kids healthier than I do, prioritizes her family better than I do, keeps house better than I do, or exercises more than I do. If I find some fault in her, I am less apt to feel inferior in comparison to her.
And then there’s that mom who I don’t welcome warmly because she’s needy; or she’s judgy; or she monopolizes the conversation. I justify distancing myself from her because “I just don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.”
But the message of the Gospel intersects all my sinful heart attitudes: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you”.¹ Because of what Christ did for me, loving me to the cross while I was still his enemy, my identity in him is a foundation for loving unity toward other women, even and especially toward the mom who is different from me.
A Fixed Identity and an Eternal Worth
When I find that loving unity is not my response toward a mom who is different from me, it’s because I’m not resting in who I am in Christ. As a Christian, my worth and identity are firmly fixed on this truth: “Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). An identity that finds its worth solely in the joy of belonging to Christ breaks strongholds of jealousy and envy, discontentment, comparison, selfish ambition, and pride. That’s the power of the gospel of Christ. And if, like me, you struggle to love the moms who are different from you, you can find freedom from comparison and insecurity in an identity that boasts, “Christ Jesus has made me his own!”
When I base my worth on my works, I feel superior to another mom if I gauge that I’m keeping up with expectations and onlookers, but then I judge a fellow mom if her differences tease my insecurities or challenge my sense of worth.
But when my worth is found in Christ rather than in having a righteousness of my own that comes from good works or personal achievement, my worth never ebbs and flows. How could another mom’s slimmer figure, nicer home, or more winsome personality rattle me when my worth is found in knowing the One who died for me, rose again from the dead, and made me his own? We see in Philippians and throughout the New Testament that Paul finds his identity in belonging to Christ, and that is where a Christian mom can find her identity, too.
Free From and Free To
A woman who finds her identity in Christ is both free from and free to. Because her confidence is not in her works but in the work of Christ, she is free from an identity based on how well she “measures up” against another mom. Since her worth is firmly and forever fixed in Christ’s worth, she is free from the terrible burden of insecurity, free from worrying about whether or not someone judges her, affirms her, likes her, or receives her — Christ Jesus has made her his own! What identity can compare to this glorious one?
She is also free to. She is free to imitate the Lord Jesus and welcome others. When Paul says to count others as more significant than ourselves, to have attitudes of humility toward one another, and to look out for the interests of others, he is teaching us to imitate Christ, the one who made us his own (Philippians 2:3-4).
“Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
When our delight is in so beautiful a Savior as this One, we are free to live lives that are consistent with his gospel message. We are free to come along with Jesus and die. Die to envy. Die to rivalry. Die to fear. Die to selfish ambition. Die to insecurity. Die to dissatisfaction. Die to this world. Die to self.
As we die daily to an identity outside of our identity in Christ, we are free to be who we were created in Christ Jesus to be:
I am free to be happy! Insecurity, envy, and rivalries flee when I live awe-struck by the almost-unimaginably glorious truth that Christ Jesus has made me his own.
I am free to love the mom who is different from me, because at the foot of the cross I understand that we are equals: unworthy sinners who need a Savior.
I am free to rejoice when another mom’s giftings, talents, and interests are different from my own, because we are members of the same body, that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am free to see other moms through gospel-lens rather than distancing myself from others because of my insecurities.
I am free to live for another’s progress and joy in the faith, that perhaps they might see just how worthy our God is.
Loving the Mom Who Is Different from Me
Sometimes my struggle to welcome another is due to my insecurity or disbelief in God’s promises, and sometimes I struggle to love another mom because of her sin: she boasts and brags, or criticizes and gossips. But if the gospel has shaped my identity, I am free from insecurities that would cause me to take her sin personally, and instead I am free to prayerfully seek her good:
“Is she saved? How can I pray for her to keep the faith? What questions could I ask her that would help me to understand her better? Could I gently correct and help her in hope that God might grant her repentance? How can I give thanks that God brought her into my life, even if His purpose is to refine me through our challenging interactions? What good word can I offer her that can help her to treasure Christ?”
The book of Philippians begins by Paul’s extending grace and peace to fellow sinners, and his genuine affection and love for the Philippians flows from his understanding of the grace and peace God extended to him. That is what an identity in Christ frees us to do: welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Because Christ extended grace and peace to us through the cross, we are free from sin and free to imitate Christ and live a life consistent with the message of the gospel.
1. Romans 15:7