Love is the Result of Spiritual Maturity

Love is the result of spiritual maturity.  It is an after-effect.  It is not, therefore, an action that we can simply urge our church people to go out and do. “Hey church, be more loving.” It’s like saying, “Hey, two-year-old, quit drooling.” Self-centeredness goes hand in hand with immaturity.

The root problem of the Christian witness in our culture today is NOT that we are sending unloving Christians into the world, though that may be the case.  It is that we are sending immature Christians into the world.  Because very few churches have a coherent philosophy of how to mature the saints for the works of the ministry.  Very few have a well-articulated theology of sanctification or discipleship.  And so we have ill-equipped, but emotionally pumped, spiritual children trying to do a grown-up’s work.  And, to the ultra-sensitive world, it smells fishy.

Have you given thought lately to the Love Chapter?

“But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” 1Co 13:10.

What is meant by that which is “perfect”?  There is only one valid option, if you ask me.  Take out the word “perfect” and stick in the words “spiritually mature” and the whole passage makes sense.  By they way, the same Greek word is translated mature in both other uses in this book (2:6; 14:20).  So why not here?

Paul is saying that when spiritual maturity comes, spiritual incompleteness goes away.  Because love is the RESULT of spiritual maturity.  Now, Paul describes the changes that occur as a Christian grows mature and deep in the Lord.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1Co 13:11.

The first result is A SHIFT FROM CHILDISHNESS TO ADULTHOOD.  Yet, how few Christians and churches have the patience for this long process.  The American Church has become afflicted with a bad case of instant gratification.  Get saved, and get busy.  It used to be Get saved, Grow up, then Get busy.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. . .” 1Co 13:12.

The second result is A SHIFT FROM SELF-ABSORPTION TO CONCERN FOR OTHERS.  When you’re looking into a mirror, who are you looking at?  Yourself.  And that is the focus of an immature person.  But when maturity comes–and ONLY when maturity comes–do we possess the emotional/spiritual capacity to practice true love.  That’s when see “face to face”–that’s when I’m looking at you, not just at myself all the time.

“…Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1Co 13:12.

The third result is A SHIFT FROM SUPERFICIALITY TO TRANSPARENCY.  Or as Paul puts it, knowing in part (superficiality) to knowing just as I am known (transparency).  Immature Christians are too fragile to be real and authentic.  They cover up, wear masks, and pretend to be better than they are.  And really, it’s hard to do otherwise–because in immaturity, we tie our worth to our production, not to our status in Christ.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1Co 13:13.

It’s the greatest because it’s the last quality formed.  What’s the bottom line?  If you want to love like Jesus loved you have to reproduce what Jesus had in his soul in your soul.  And that means growing in wisdom and stature till you become a mature man or woman in Christ.

Same thing, different book:  Col 3:14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  TRANSLATION:  After all these other qualities are formed in your life, you will be able to demonstrate love, the relational glue that only comes from MATURITY (perfection).

I’m not making it up.  It’s in the Bible.

The urgent need of the church today is that Christians will be deeply rooted and grounded in the faith and that we will sink deep roots before we spread wide branches.

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Love is the Result of Spiritual Maturity

  1. I think you have given a challenging post, and it is spot on.

    I would clarify that love is both an emotion and a verb. Out of maturity one would love emotionally, but what about when one is at odds with someone else? Then love becomes a choice, an active one at that. This choice can really only been done out of spiritual maturity. Spriritual infants will have a hard time loving those who are rude, annoying, or violent. Perhaps this is why Christians are encouraged to become spiritually mature, because it is expected that they will love their enemies in the face of adversity.

    What do you think?

  2. James… yes. And nice to hear from you. You are exactly right. What happens when we don’t FEEL like loving? That’s the acid test. Anybody can love their friends, right? It takes great inner resources to love and pray for your enemies, and that requires deep roots into Christ and his Word.

    Bill

  3. Bill,

    I do not know whether the Russian philosopher, V.V. Rozinov, was a believer, but he once observed that “We do not live in accordance with our mode of thinking. . . but we think in accordance with our mode of loving.”

    The quote sounds like the key to living well…

    Yesterday I was reading the Book of Daniel, and I came across Daniel’s advice to King Nebuchadnezzar, who had just received the news (from Daniel) that he — Nebuchadnezzar — was destined for seven years to living like a wild animal: “break… from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor” (Dan 4:27).

    There appears to be this idea in Scripture that our love toward others is correlated to our purity of walking in fellowship with the Lord. James says, “…visiting orphans & widows in their distress [by] keeping oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

    In other words, the obstacle toward loving others is our Inner Mess. The idea of Christian maturity appears to include consistency in limiting the influence of the Inner Mess through access & dependency on Scripture, Christian fellowship, prayer, and other “disciplines” of our faith — in a word, dependence upon the Spirit of God instead of the Inner Mess for daily living.

    The Lord’s prayer suggests that we pray that we be not led into temptation, and (for all of us) the temptation is to miss the opportunities in life of showing our love (from our Savior) to others in this lost world.

    Grace.
    Joe

  4. AMEN, Dr. G! Would that we all keep on progressing toward maturity! With more maturity and more love, we can have the patience and, yes tolerance, for those who are still less mature. Most of the time we have more patience with our own immature children than those in the Body of Jesus!

    Thanks for this post! Great!

  5. I’m just a layperson with a Stongs Concordance and Google but, I’m curious why you would interpret the word perfect as mature in 1 Cor 13:10 when the word “come” (eµrxomai) in every other instance in 1 Cor refers to a person arriving? (1Co 2:1 , 1Co 4:5, Co 4:18, 1Co 4:19, 1Co 4:21, 1Co 11:26, 1Co 11:34, 1Co 13:10, 1Co 14:6, 1Co 15:35, 1Co 16:2, 1Co 16:5, 1Co 16:10, 1Co 16:11, Co 16:12)

  6. Hi All Ears,
    I’m really impressed that you checked. However, you’re checking the wrong word. The word erchomai is indeed the verb meaning to come or arrive. I’m not translating that word “maturity.” I’m translating the word that comes before it, teleion/telos, maturity. The same word is translated maturity in:
    1Co 2:6* However, we speak wisdom among those who are MATURE (teleion), yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
    1Co 14:20* Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be MATURE (teleion).
    Bill

  7. maturity in the teleological sense would be a kind of arrival, if final cause can be construed/imaged in a spatial manner (as opposed to chronological).

    Being just a philosopher w/ too much free time myself.

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