If you're like me, you have had moments where someone said, "We need an adult to handle this" and you look around only to remember that you are the adult. I remember the first time I had to make my own appointment over the phone. I felt like I was prank calling my dentist.
Growing up is weird, but I think we can all admit that it feels good to "adult" successfully. Maturity is a good thing and the older I get, the less I miss being a kid (most of the time).
Paul drops a serious burn on the Corinthians when he calls them out for not “spiritually adulting.”
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able" (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth (notice he calls them brothers) but he also says that they are spiritually immature. Which begs the question: What does spiritual maturity look like? What is the difference between a "babe in Christ" and the Christian who can handle solid food?
Reading through Ephesians 4:12-16, Paul lays out a few items of note and then concludes with the ultimate outcome of growth in the body of Christ (aka the church). From those items, here are 3 things that, according to Paul, spiritually mature people do.
Spiritually mature people strive for unity amongst Christians
"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).
One thing that grieves my spirit is when I hear Christians putting down other Christians. If people are doing things that are contrary to Scripture then, yeah, we should get on their case. We are supposed to do that (Matthew 18:15-17). I'm talking about differences of opinion or even denomination.
I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. I have gone to Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, and Reformed churches. Did I agree with everything they spoke about? No. But if a church preaches the Word of God and doesn't contradict Scripture, then we should be able to find common ground in Jesus Christ. Paul says that this is the ultimate goal of the use of spiritual gifts.
It can be very easy to come in with assumptions when approaching Christians from other denominations. Yet, wouldn't it be more beneficial to assume you will agree on the basics and go from there? And, if a disagreement arises, here's a novel idea: Talk about it. Which brings me to the next point.
Spiritually mature people exercise discernment
"That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Ephesians 4:14).
I remember one particular conversation I had in college. One of my friends was a Lutheran who was very open about his beliefs on when the Rapture would supposedly occur. I was fascinated to hear his thoughts on certain Scriptures and I was able to share my thoughts as well. We didn't agree but we had a very interesting conversation. Having never heard an argument for "mid-trib," I was intrigued.
However, another friend present during the conversation got flustered. He didn't want to even hear us discuss it. "No!" he kept saying. "We don't need to talk about that kind of stuff."
His reaction confused me. I knew what I believed and my Lutheran friend knew what he believed. Hearing a different opinion than mine didn't make me so angry or upset I wanted to shut him up. Yet that is what we see so often in culture and humanity in general. "How dare you utter an opinion other than my own in my presence?"
Humans are not robots. We are complex beings with both physical and spiritual components made in the image of God. If we hear an opinion different from our own, we don't automatically make a U-turn and believe it. Those that do are … well, like children. Children don't know what they believe because they've only been alive for a few years and haven't had the time nor developed the mental capacity to establish a foundation of beliefs. Adults, on the other hand, have no excuse. That's not to say someone's beliefs can't change, but that change needs to come with careful thought and consideration, not in a flash of contrary ideas beyond your control.
Spiritually mature people are tactful
"But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—" (Ephesians 4:15).
If you've been on the Internet for any length of time, you have likely encountered what I call the "NU-UH! You're stupid!" person.
This is the individual who has made it his duty to stir the pot in the comments section but has no solid basis for his argument. Perhaps he started with a solid argument but was struck down by a fellow commenter. As the two duked it out in glorious Internet wordplay, this guy finally regressed to "NU-UH! You're stupid!" As if the other person's intelligence has some influence on the state of truth or reality.
The sad thing is that many times the "NU-UH! You're stupid!" person can be a Christian. One of the false ideologies I see permeating Christian culture is that because the Bible is true and my opinion is correct, I shouldn't need to defend myself intellectually. The supposition is that non-Christians are obviously misled in their thinking; therefore I have the Christian right to smack you down without relevant conversation.
Question: When the Pharisees and Sadducees contradicted Jesus, did he say "Well you're wrong cuz I'm God so … NU-UH!" No. Jesus pointed them back to Scripture as His basis. And even when Jesus got angry, He still didn't insult their intelligence. Rather, He rebuked them for their intelligence. They thought they knew better because they thought they knew the Scriptures.
The key is to balance truth with tact (or love, aka generally caring about someone and not aiming to beat them senseless in the comments section). No one ever won an argument with someone by attacking him or her. If you want to win someone over to your beliefs, you have to find middle ground and then present your case. You don't compromise your beliefs, but rather emphasize why it is important to consider what you believe. Doing this without getting flustered takes great maturity. Children argue by getting into screaming matches and hitting each other. Mature people argue by respecting each other and talking it out.
I am guilty of not following these three principles. What human isn’t? The point is that in all things we should strive to grow. We won’t always hit the mark, but if we aim to follow Christ and help others grow as well, we are one step closer to the ideal Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:15: “[T]he whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Editor’s Note: Canada Burkhalter is the author of this blog. She is a writer for EngageMagazine.net and works in the information technology department at AFA. Growing up in a family of creatives, Canada developed an interest in art and technical knowledge at a very young age, which led her to pursue a career in graphic design. She’s extremely passionate about art, media, science fiction, and growing in Christ. In her spare time, she enjoys painting and knitting. She is a big believer that God can use even the most unexpected to teach believers the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.