Of course, there are those who ridicule the notion that Christians should express love in any emotional way. They view it as mere maudlin sentimentality. They make fun of Christians - especially men - who openly express affection through hugging, verbal expression, or emotion. Several years ago, a woman who was a neighbor of one of my late relatives expressed revulsion at the fact that men at the local Church openly hugged each other right out on the street in front of the church! She seemed to believe that the church was encouraging, contrary to Scripture, homosexual relationships between men.The well-meaning lady had no clue. In her mind, she was expressing righteous indignation, and the men were expressing perversion! She couldn't have been more wrong. Yet, her life to date had been a story of good works and care for others. She could understand love so long as it was expressed in an unemotional way.
What are the signs of immaturity in CHURCH?
There are many people who think they have reached maturity in the faith but in reality the act more like little spiritual children. What reasons do people use to justify their view that they (or even someone else) are more grown up and 'spiritual' than others?
- Being a church member for years
Intimate knowledge of church's doctrines.
Going to services every week.
Having a domineering personality that is good at putting others down.
- Spending time with church leaders
Being financially well-off
Giving significant sums of money to the church
Knowing quite a bit about the Bible
Dressing well to church
The NEW Commandment from Jesus
Jesus, teaching his disciples, said,
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
Now ask yourself this: If Jesus' disciples did not openly express their love for each other, then how would "all men" know that they were his followers? Of course, the issue is how was this affection and love appropriately expressed. There truly were occasions in which the disciples of Jesus showed physical affection for each other, like when John leaned against Jesus' breast to ask him who would betray him:
"One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him . . . Leaning back against Jesus, he (John) asked him, 'Lord, who is it?'" (John 13:23)
The way the first Christians treated each other in public was the visible sign that they were Christians who had reached a level of spiritual maturity. Their interpersonal relationships were wholesome, selfless, giving, forgiving, and mutually supportive. Unlike much of the Church today, they were not competitive enemies. They were "in it together." At the same time, they had their occasional disagreements. After appropriate prayer and haggling, they worked out their differences and moved in unison ahead (see. Acts 15).
Love, like faith, without works or manifestation, is dead. If we say we have love, but we do nothing that demonstrates it, we have no reason to claim it. Love, to be love, has to have legs. Love is the antonym for hate. True Christians do not hate other Christians for any reason. If they do so, it is a symptom of immaturity. It is one thing to disagree on a point, it is quite another to hate. There is no room in the Christian's emotional or spiritual vocabulary for hatred.
Picture of the face of God from
Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.
Gray hair is generally thought of as a sign of maturity and wisdom. The Bible teaches that not only do those with gray hair deserve respect but it is also a "crown of glory" to those who are mature in the Lord:
"You shall rise before the GRAY HEADED and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:32, NKJV)
"The SILVER-HAIRED HEAD is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness." (Proverbs 16:31, NKJV)
Paul's definition of spiritual maturity
Let us go to Paul's discussion about what maturity on a spiritual level is and is not. After explaining that he had put away childish things, goes on to show that
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, IT IS NOT SELF-SEEKING, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS . . . " (1Corinthians 13:4-8).
The trajectory from a child-like to a fully mature person leads outward from self. Spiritual love is selfless love. Immature love is self-love.
Furthermore, Paul goes on to explain that no matter what else we can do - speak in angelic or human tongues we didn't learn, demonstrate the gift of prophecy, fathom mysteries like Daniel did, or even exercise mountain-moving faith - if we can't express love, we're nothing. Appropriate, godly love then is at the heart of Christian maturity. Knowing that, isn't it something we ought to be actively seeking to achieve and express?
Love is the first listed spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As Paul also taught, every Christian should
"Follow the way of love . . ." (1Corinthians 14:1).
When Paul describes to the Corinthian congregation the ways in which godly love is manifested, he is providing a treatise on maturity, one that is characterized by patience, good manners (civility), lack of envy, humility and a temper that is well under control. The person who has achieved a level of maturity is not preoccupied with himself or herself. He or she has died to self. Those who are mature have reached a level where they are no longer interested in keeping track of other people's mistakes, sins and faults (1Corinthians 13:5). As Paul puts it, "they keep no record of wrongs."
A mature spiritual Christian rejoices in every new discovery of truth. He or she actively seeks out truth and follows it wherever it leads. He is not ashamed to jettison old errors in favor of better understanding. They take no delight - vicariously or otherwise - in evil. They do not view other's evil as a way of making themselves look good by contrast.
A believer who has some maturity has no wish to participate in evil, and they don't delight in, or take advantage of, it when others fall into sin. They have no appetite for scandal. They take no delight in plotting evil, living vicariously in the evil of others, or in hearing about the evil that men do. They actively seek to drive back the toxic spiritual darkness that envelops this world. Those who are mature seek to protect others who are vulnerable in a dangerous world. Just as Jesus said to Peter:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. BUT I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU, Simon, that your faith may not fail . . . " (Luke 22:31-32)
Mature Christians spend much time in intercessory prayer for others (Luke 22:31; 1Thessalonians 5:17). They are more focused on the needs of others than themselves. Those who are advanced in spiritual character are not paranoid. They "believe all things" and offer others the benefit of the doubt. They are not fearful and suspicious, always expecting the worst (1Corinthians 13:7).
A person who loves hangs in there and perseveres. He or she has hope and is optimistic about what God has in store for his faithful children. Mature Christians are not "fair weather friends." They stick with you in your worst as well as your best moments.
The power to reach it
Having spiritual maturity involves sensitivity to, and powerful leading by, the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the capacity to love as God loves (as we learned earlier - Romans 5:5). The influence of the Spirit of God in a person with a child-like attitude is at best but a flickering ember. In those mature in God, it is a roaring flame. As we move deeper into obedience to God, the influence of the Holy Spirit grows greater. As Peter said,
"We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those that obey him." (Acts 5:32).
At the same time, it is the Holy Spirit that not only strengthens our spiritual faith but also enables us to more fully comprehend and be filled with God's love. The apostle Paul prayed:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19).
The Holy Spirit imparts the power of God to His people (Acts 1:8). It enables us to transcend our natural human capacities and limitations. The more of God's Spirit we have indwelling in us, the quicker we'll attain to the spiritual maturity God wants for all his children.