K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, towering 28,251ft above sea level. Not only is it tall, but it is also dangerous, resulting in the deaths of 77 people who have tried to reach its peak. There have been those who have scaled the huge height, but they did not all use the same route. One could attempt a climb from any side of the mountain and may choose it based on a number of factors, such as availability, season, political situation of the countries each side resides in, finance, equipment and other variables. Each route offers its own challenges and difficulties, but those on different routes are all still scaling the same mountain.
Now while in Justification there is only one way in which we all must go through, faith in Jesus Christ alone, our journey of sanctification may take different bends and turns than others. While we are all on the same journey with the same goal, we do not all have the same challenges to face or obstacles to overcome. We should all be going down the road to holiness but the things that impede us from that goal may not be the same. While you may never have to struggle with drunkenness, others may, and the temptation is to see them as lower on the path than you are. However, that same person may never have to struggle with the rage or excess pride that you do. Even non-sinful, mere life situations such as health, finances, martial status or other factors can pose their own unique challenges in sanctification. The problem lies in when we superimpose the ease or difficulty of our own journey onto others. It can be tempting to establish our own sanctification as the standard and treat it as if it is a cookie cutter method of how everyone will grow in sanctification. Sanctification is not a one size fits all process, as while we are all sinners we do not all share the same sins in equal measure.
Sanctification is also not all at the same rate. Some start from a position where the climb up is going to be intensely laborious, while others start from a position of relative ease and quickness only to approach a vertical cliff of difficulty later on. The way up in both situations is not to look at where you are relative to others, but rather to keep your eye on the goal, which is Christ. Therefore, instead of looking with disdain on those who we perceive are behind us, we should encourage them to press on through the things we have already conquered and sympathize with those things that we didn’t have to struggle with. Often times I find the discussion of who is the “stronger” Christian vs who is the “weaker” Christian to be missing the fullness of our complex situation. While there are definite marks of strength that the scriptures give (2 Peter 1:5-8; Galatians 5:2-26; etc), a better question may be what are they strong in vs what are they weak in. Some, due to their different struggles may be farther along and stronger in an area than you are even though you can look into their lives and see a weakness in comparison to you in another area. Every Christian has areas in need of growth. This means that all Christians who are walking down the path of sanctification have something they can learn from each other.
Sometimes our paths may intersect and that helps us to move together through the challenges that we face. But even when one person must climb over boulders, let us not think ourselves superior because boulders never gave us a problem even though we are dealing with snow drifts. Or put another way, Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 also speak to the way we are to interact with those who are dealing with different areas of sanctification. Rather than causing conflict, let us learn to use their vantage point to help us see things that we may never have seen and also share with them our view that they may have never been aware of.
Sanctification is the path that every Christian must walk in, and while it is a steady and long race that will test our endurance; it is not a race against each other, but with each other. We must always remember that our progress in sanctification is never measured by how far we are from other believers, but by how far we are from Christ. So if every Christian is looking to Christ then every Christian ought to be growing in him, and while what that looks like in each believer may not be exactly the same, it will still be an encouragement to us all. The race before us is long and hard, so let us press on together and spur one another on to good works. Even when our sanctification is from different angles, its journey will still help motivate others to continue to grow in godliness. An expedition of K2 takes three weeks full of dangers and endurance, the course of sanctification takes an entire lifetime full of dangers and endurance. The Christian life is not for the weak of heart, which is why Jesus said his disciples must take up their cross daily and lose their life, for that is exactly what they will do. Even though sanctification is hard, it is worth it, for through it we will be conformed more and more into the image of God’s Son. While the journey of K2 may end in glory, the journey of the Christian life ends in glorification.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14