Finally, part 2 to the love posting… you can scroll down a little for part 1.
My point is simply this: to love the way Jesus loved, a Christian must grow to maturity.
Should I stop right there, or elaborate? Ummm… Okay. Christian maturity, as a category of teaching, has kind of fizzled. I don’t hear or read much about it. Scripture abounds with apostolic and prophetic encouragements to press on to maturity:
- “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” Heb 6:1, NASB.
- “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Heb 5:12-14.
- “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Col 1:28.
- “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing.” Jas 1:4.
The way I see it, Christian growth is the means to a phenomenal end: reproducing in your soul the same structures of thinking, believing, and reacting that were in Jesus’ soul. A mature Christian reproduces the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). You begin to see things from Jesus’ perspective. You have his heart and his mind on the matters of your life and world. You also develop the inner resources to deal with adversity and prosperity. You are, as James says, “complete, lacking nothing” or as Paul writes, “fully furnished for every good work.” This is Christian maturity.
The Holy Spirit will not compensate for a Christian’s willful lack of maturity.
If you neglect your own spiritual growth, if you neglect to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18), you can’t expect God to come in and rescue you. He won’t study for your tests. He’s already passed them; now it’s your turn. This is why Jesus rebuked his disciples who turned into sissies when a gale tossed their boat around. They had enjoyed every opportunity to grow, and they did not take advantage of that. So while they whined, he slept. He would not do for them what they could have done for themselves, had they been mature.
Time to bring it home to the topic of love.
Your love-life depends on your maturity. You cannot love like Jesus loved — in any sustained fashion — from an immature soul. This makes sense, doesn’t it? In marriage, or friendship, or at school, work or play… how do you react to the irritations of life? How do you react to those who bug you? rub you the wrong way? wound you? How do you react when your spouse is driving you crazy? Do you pull away? Pout? Get even? Or do you love like Jesus loved?
In your ministry life, how do you sustain your labors when those you serve don’t care, don’t appreciate you, don’t respond? How do you sustain your love when it goes unreciprocated?
All of these things depend on maturity.
Without maturity, love quickly turns self-serving, self-focused, and fragile. Without maturity, commitment fails. Without maturity, love cannot bear all things, hope all things, or endure all things. Without maturity, love always fails. It has a breaking point.
But with maturity, love never fails.
In the next blog, I’d like to expound some Scriptures that make this very point.
One last thing: Churches make a grave error in sending immature people out to do mission in the name of Jesus unless those people are a) in the process of maturing, and b) coupled with a mature mentor. By forgetting the category of growth, churches have sent forth millions of Christians in the name of LOVE, whose love seems weird, fickle, finicky, and self-serving. Our problem in American Christianity is not that we are unloving, but that we are immature, and the world senses it.
The solution: Christians, GROW UP.