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.
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?