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. — 1 Corinthians 13: 11
We strive for maturity in Christ.
While it is normal for a child to behave like a child, one can justifiably expect a different sort of behaviour from an adult. From a spiritual perspective, we were born through our baptism with water and the Holy Spirit. The Lord now expects us to continue developing in order to attain spiritual maturity.
Stages of development
A child must learn to speak. A newly born baby can only capture your attention and express its needs by crying. The parents teach it to say thank you at a very early age. As soon as it has learned the language, it must also learn to be silent and listen.
There are spiritual parallels. We have the right to bring our wishes and needs to God, but we must also learn to recognize His grace and be grateful to Him. The desire to express one’s opinion is quite normal, but it is also necessary to learn to be silent in order to recognize the will of God.
A newly born child is given special care. Everyone must accept this reality. In the congregation this is a little different. While our neighbour may certainly be expected to help look after us, we cannot expect that we should be the constant focus of all endeavours in the congregation!
Developing into maturity
What determines the conduct of a child? This conduct is determined by correction on the one hand, and reward on the other. The child grows up knowing: “If I do certain things, my parents will not be happy and they will correct me. On the other hand, if I listen to them I will be rewarded.” But that is a child. An adult, by contrast, acts on the basis of his convictions. When we put the gospel into practice, we do not do this out of fear that we will be punished if we fail to do so, nor do we do so in hopes of reward. The reason we follow the gospel is because we are convinced that this is the only way that leads to the goal of our faith.
Children are fond of playing. They often pretend to be father and mother and imitate their parents’ behaviour. Adults no longer need to play this kind of game because they are already adults! If they are aware of their responsibilities, they will assume their tasks despite difficulties that may be expected and sacrifices that may need to be made. It is of no value or benefit to merely copy the behaviour of others, as Ananias and Sapphira attempted to do. We must genuinely become like Jesus. As members of the body of Christ, we join in the responsibility for our neighbour, and indeed for the well-being of the church as a whole.
A child cannot yet assess the value of certain objects. On the basis of experiences they have made, adults know what is truly important. Our spiritual experience enables us to properly assess the genuineness of the Apostles’ doctrine. We no longer behave as children who are “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4: 14).
Growing up into adulthood in Christ
God grants us everything we need for our spiritual growth:
- Substantive nourishment—Holy Communion.
- Instruction from the Holy Spirit.
- A perfect example—Jesus Christ.
- Numerous opportunities to practise—but we must recognize them.
Are we all grown up yet?
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 28 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.