It doesn’t mean that if we are baptized a long time ago, going to church every week, have knowledge of the fundamental doctrines and knows a lot of the church’s teachings are indications that we have attained spiritual maturity.
It doesn’t mean also, that if we have a spiritual duty in the church like deacons, deaconesses, minister, preacher, evangelist or a teacher, we have attained spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity should be based on consistency of one’s faith to face every trial, test and chastening.
In the first part, we learned that if we imitate God’s love and show it and express it to others, that’s a sign that we are going in the right direction of having a development in the spiritual part of our lives. If there is one example in the Bible that typifies spiritual development, it is Apostle Paul. Paul was concerned for the spiritual maturity of the churches under his care.
In his own experience, Paul wrote, “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 things behind me” (1Corinthians 13:11).
This experience of Paul shows us one of the best analogies we could ever have to understand the concept of development. Development means positive change.
There was a process involved in the development to attain the positive change and this was discussed by Apostle Paul as he used himself as an example, a little child who eventually rose to be a fine man. Each of us experienced childhood and as a child, we have a tendency to be self-centred, thinking only of ourselves, our needs, comfort and wants.
But as we grow older, we became aware of the people around us and their needs as well. We eventually learn that not all toys belong to us, some belong to other kids. As we continue to mature, physically, mentally and emotionally, we learned that there is a larger world outside us, then we learned to socialize with others.
Some Christians tend to behave childish behaviour in spiritual aspect. Just like babies do, they seek attention to get something they want.
We find Christians who have been baptized for years but still behaving like a child. We can confirm that there was no development in terms of the spiritual aspect of their lives. If we find ourselves fighting the same old problems we fought when we were first converted, we may be suffering from it ourselves. How do we know that there are no spiritual developments happening to us or to some Christians?
There are many signs that confirm to non-spiritual development. If we can’t show love, care and concern for others, if we still have a problem with our lack of control when it comes to temper and temptations, if we still feel spiritually powerless, if we still look on our selves and not for others, being self-centred and self-seeking, if we have long periods of time without communications with God, if we still put down others to make ourselves better, if anger, hatred and jealousy is always evident in our personality and if our lives reflect more on the works of flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit, then until now, we are still childish Christians.
Apostle Paul, after explaining that he had put away childish things, goes on to show that, ” . . . love is not self-seeking” (1Corinthians 13:4). So the trajectory from immaturity to maturity leads outward from self. Mature 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, spiritually we’re nothing.
Appropriate, godly love then is at the heart of spiritual maturity. Knowing that, isn’t it something we ought to be actively seeking to achieve and express? Love is the first-listed 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 spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is characterized by patience, good manners (civility), lack of envy, humility and a temper that is well under control. The spiritually mature person is not preoccupied with himself or herself. He or she has died to self.
Those who have reached a high level of spiritual maturity 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.” They have no war chest of offenses to unload on those over whom they wish to gain a psychological advantage in an argument.
A mature Christian rejoices in every new discovery of truth. He or she actively seeks out truth and follows it wherever it leads. Those who have reached higher plains of maturity take no delight in evil. They do not view other’s evil as a way of making themselves look good by contrast. (One of the standard techniques of an emotionally immature person is to provoke another person to anger, and then attack them for the anger. This perfectly reflects the mind of Satan.)
Those who are spiritually mature seek to protect others who are vulnerable in a dangerous world. Just as Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you,” (Luke 22:31)
Mature Christians spend much time in intercessory prayer for others (Luke 22:31; 1Thessalonians 5:17). They are more “other oriented” than self-oriented.
One of the most important characteristics of mature Christian love is that it “never fails” (1Corinthians 13:8). Like the love of God itself, it is constant, unwavering, always there. A fully mature Christian has achieved a steady state of love. This kind of love is far greater than either faith or hope. It is the most concrete expression of spiritual maturity there is. Just as God never gives up on us (Philippians 1:6), we must learn not to give up on each other. We can’t “write each other off” simply because we disagree on a point of doctrine, or an interpretation of facts or acts.
May we all achieve spiritual maturity… Amen