So…you learn something new every day. Case in point: I just learned a cool definition for maturity – from Wikipedia, yes, but I trust them whole-heartedly 😉
In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately
Man! What a definition; the ability to respond in an appropriate manner, knowing how and when to behave appropriately.
When I think about Christian maturity I know a lot of us REALLY come up short of that definition! The Apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Corinth:
Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (1 Corinthians 14:20)
His distinction between infants and adults is fascinating. There is a naiveté to children in regards to evil. When it comes to our behavior we’re to be like kids – innocent and free from that junk. But when it comes to our thinking it’s time to grow up and be adults. So how were they thinking like children?
They were thinking selfishly.
That pretty much sums it up. Childish behavior is selfish. “It’s about me. What I want. Now. It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. Serve me. My way.” This is completely opposite to the definition we just read. Childish behavior isn’t able to delay gratification depending on environment and circumstance.
The same is true in Christianity. Sometimes we behave like little children. We act selfishly. We desire our things. We want our way. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances. It doesn’t matter what else needs to happen. We’re focused on one thing and one thing only – ME!
In the church we see this come into play in a lot of different ways. “I don’t like the music.” “I don’t like how the pastor does….” “They’re sitting in my seat.” “They didn’t do my idea.” And that’s just off the top of my head. It all comes back to being selfishly motivated. When I focus on ME instead of on OTHER then I’m always going to put my wants and desires first, and I will pursue those wants and desires regardless of the appropriate manner, time, or place to engage in such behavior.
But Christianity is not about ME. It never has been. In fact, the only person Christianity has ever been about is Christ, and even he said:
The Son of Man (that’s himself) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
If we are to really strive to be like Jesus, if we are really going to mature as Christians, then we need to be intentional about putting off our selfish drives and start to focus on how we can serve others. That’s what stinks about maturing. Because we LIKE getting our way. We LIKE having the things we want – when we want them. It feels good to have our immaturity catered to – to remain like a spoiled kid. There’s a Peter Pan in all of us that wants to stay with the Lost Boys in Neverland forever. “I WON’T GROW UP!”
Too many Christians take that song as their theme song and join in: “We won’t grow up! We will never grow a day. And if someone tries to make us we will simply run away.” Ouch. Hits a little close to home, huh? I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all done it to some degree. But that’s not what God’s family is supposed to look like.
We can do better. We can be better. Paul writes in Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. With God we really can change. We can leave behind childish selfishness and embrace Christian maturity.
It’s time to mature. It’s time to be an adult.