God is love (3)

Toward maturity

22. December 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

In the first part of this Series “God is love” the focus was on Gods love. The second part then spoke about Self love. In this third part we’ll have a look beyond ourselves, and see how Gods love, and the grace we received, can transform our interaction with others. This is about gaining maturity and to love others.

The Listening and the Doing

The apostle Paul, in many of his letters, presents two sides of faith. One side is the proclamation of the gospel itself. This is explanatory. You find teachings and prayers. The other side is about everyday life. For example, if you read the letter to the Ephesians, you will see teaching in the first three chapters. It is about what we have “in Christ” (Eph 1:3). Then the focus switches. In chapters four to six it is all about conduct. It starts like this: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1).

These two sides can be called the Listening and the Doing. They come in that order. First we receive from God. Then we can put that into practice. In his letter to the Galatians, he describes it as:

“Faith working through love.”
Gal 5:6

Faith is good, but if you don’t use it for anything, it’s not of much value. How then can faith become real in this world? It is a simple thing. It is through love, by looking to do good for the people you meet and greet. Not, because you want something in return, but because it is the right thing to do. Unconditional love.

Toward maturity

No one is born mature. Maturity is something we grow into. It has a lot to do with the decisions we make during our life. The expression of unconditional love is a sign of maturity. It is also the attitude by which we grow into maturity. This thought is prevalent in different ways throughout the letters of Paul. One passage explains this quite well:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Eph 4:11-14

Paul speaks about the maturity of the people in the context of the Body of Christ (the Church). That is why there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. There is a lot to say about these verses, but let’s just look at a few points. He contrasts maturity and childhood.

Two things he links to maturity, namely “unity of faith” and “knowledge of the Son of God”. Two things he links to childhood, namely being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine and describes this further as “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”.

One of the things he obviously observed in the fellowships was widespread confusion by all kinds of doctrines. Distractions were the result. Maturity though has found a way “to cut through the crap”. That might have been Paul’s intention, to encourage the people to focus on the right things. Just one chapter earlier he had pointed out that the believers should become “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17). That would give stability amidst strange doctrines, deception, etc. It would help to focus on things of importance.

Maturity thus is one way to describe a goal of growth. But how does the apostle see that happening? That is what he describes in the next few verses:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Eph 4:15-16

This text also carries many thoughts. The apostle speaks about how to attain maturity. Twice he mentions love and these occurrences belong together. The following translation has a slightly different focus:

“Now, being true, in love we should be making all grow into Him, Who is the Head – Christ.”
Eph 4:15-16 CNT*

If we are true, love is the way how we make everything grow into Him. That is Gods love put into practice. The result is a living organism, the Body of Christ, coming to maturity. Simply put: How do you nourish your fellowship? Start loving. How do you nourish your faith? Start practicing it through love.

Interesting enough, building a church is not about marketing strategies or branding. That all may have its place, but it is not the essence. If we capture the essence, maturity will follow. Pure transformation from childhood to maturity will happen. Church should be a fellowship run by love and lead to Christ, as Paul explained in this paragraph.

Is it that easy? Probably not. There are many limitations. We ourselves are quite limited. Our communities are limited as well. Not always things can be understood or handled properly. That is life. But here is the alternative: Away from childhood and moving toward maturity is a direction. We have to set a goal and start moving. Let’s encourage each other to move toward maturity, putting love into action.

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Eph 6:24

*CNT = Concordant New Testament