Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spritual Growth and Maturity - My Thoughts

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
-- 1 Cor 13:11

When we are children, we are given quite a few rules to follow. Things like, 'don't pull your sisters hair', or 'you can't have candy for dinner', or 'look both ways before crossing the street' and a whole list of other do's and dont's. In most cases these rules aren't made up just to make the lives of children more difficult, they are given to protect the child, or to prevent the child from harming another person. As a child I really didn't understand the health consequences of eating only candy all the time, and as I child I really didn't have the capacity to care for or have empathy for another person yet. So rules were put into place until I matured. Now at 40 years old, if I go the my moms house and my sister happens to be there, we may both sit down to watch a TV show and we would ask each other what we want to watch and one of us would defer to the other if we didn't have the same show in mind. But if my mother still has to break up a fight over the remote and tell me 'don't pull your sister's hair', you might suspect that I have a developmental problem; that I never matured.

I suspect that Spiritual Maturity is very similar in nature. If you'll note, Paul's comment from 1 Cor 13:11 about putting childish things away, is right in the middle of a very well known chapter about God's kind of love and relationship.

There is another thing that I think Paul understood quite well, and that we need to remember; Spiritual Growth is a process, and it is a process that is guided by the Spirit. Both Jesus and Paul use a 'fruit' metaphor to describe the developing of love and patience and kindness in a believers life, and I think there is good reason for this. I think they both wanted people to understand that just like fruit, these things take time to grow in us, and that they aren't a work. Since Paul understood this process, it isn't surprising that he often did give commands to address specific problems in the Churches he wrote to. But those commands weren't intended to be an end in themselves, rather they were put in place until the believers learned to walk by the Spirit and the Spirit had produced fruit. Then the command would no longer be needed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Spiritual Growth and Maturity - Questions

First, if you haven't read it already, Kingdom Grace has an excellent post here that discusses discipleship and spiritual growth. Her post may be an oblique rebuttal to the growing controversy over whether missional churches are any more effective than attractional megachurches. Whether it was intended to be that or not, it is still an excellent post. Here is a quote that might pique your interest.

Then in a rush to transform our new converts into shiny, happy christians we train them into every aspect of cultural christianity rather than trusting the process of transformation by the Spirit that begins within before it becomes evident to others. The goal is to get them looking and acting like good christians as soon as possible.

For sometime now, I have been thinking about what it means to be spiritually mature, and wondering if we use the terms 'milk' and 'meat' (technically solid food) in a way that Paul intended when he wrote 1 Corinthians 3:2, or when the author of Hebrews 5:12 used the same metaphor. I would say that I believe it is almost certainly misused when someone pridefully exclaims that their pastor preaches only meat -- as if milk is never an appropriate food. By the way, whenever I've heard someone thank their pastor for 'giving us meat today', it was usually after a sermon that served a heavy dose of legalism. Which, ironically, may be the polar opposite of what 'meat' is.

In the next post, I'll share my thoughts about what it means to be mature, and what I'm leaning toward in my understanding of the terms 'milk' and 'solid food'. Like I said, I've been pondering them so I haven't fully settled the issue in my mind. But for now I want to hear what others might think. I will tell you that I've been looking at 1 Corinthians - chapters 2 and 3, Hebrews 5 (Obviously), and Romans 14.

What does it mean to be 'Spiritually Mature'?

What do the terms 'milk' and 'solid food' refer to in 1 Cor 3:2 and Heb 5:12?

Is it ever appropriate to give someone milk? Conversely, is it appropriate to give meat to a mass audience?