by Richard Mansel, managing editor
Spiritual maturity is one of the hallmarks of preaching. We use God’s Word to help people grow spiritually, so they can develop the knowledge and tools to conquer their spiritual weaknesses.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NKJV).
This is true spiritually and emotionally. Both are essential to our maturation. However, in the church, we often overlook the emotional aspects of our growth.
Immersed for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16), and added to the Church Christ built (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23), we walk in the paths of our Lord, transformed by the gospel message (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:1).
In Christ, we have all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3) and we walk in his light (1 John 1:7). We yield ourselves to the Lord completely.
In the Church, we are to be unified (1 Corinthians 1:10), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1), and fulfill all of the qualities outlined by our Lord in 1 Peter 1:5-8, in dealing with one another.
However, we may never accomplish any of these things if our immaturity fails to allow us to rise above our weaknesses. Let us consider carefully the following points.
“Emotionally mature people accept responsibility for their actions. They don’t look for excuses for their behavior. There may be reasons or circumstances why emotionally mature people act in an irresponsible way, but they don’t waste time making all kinds of excuses. Emotionally mature people don’t feel victimized by circumstances or other people. Even when circumstances or events are difficult, they deal with them without resorting to blaming others.”/1
If we develop this maturity, we will be able to deal with one another as Christ demands in Scripture. Otherwise, we will be selfish, controlling, vengeful and spiteful. These traits are commonplace in the world, but in the Lord’s kingdom, they have no place.
An emotionally immature person will demand that everyone act just like them. They become hypersensitive to anything they perceive to be a slight and will exact vengeance on anyone who displeases them. If the church divides, as a result, they can simply blame it on someone else.
An emotionally immature person needs things to be small and manageable. They intertwine their opinions with Scripture and they become unquestioned doctrines. A rejection of these doctrines is a repudiation of their fragile egos and that is anathema.
“Self-centeredness and self-importance are characteristics of children and adolescents. They demand special treatment, make little real contributions themselves, and complain that life isn’t meeting their demands.”/2
Emotional maturity does not automatically come with age. One writer said, “Youth fades — Immaturity Lingers.”/3 What may be cute in an infant is pathetic in an adult.
Sadly, many people in the church fall into this category. We must help them mature, so they can put away childish things. As we mature, our relationships will improve and we will stop fighting each other. As a result, we will grow numerically because people will desire to be with the spiritually and emotionally mature.
Spiritual maturity and emotional maturity are essential. One will not occur smoothly without the other. We cannot mature spiritually unless we get out of ourselves. Emotional maturity facilitates this all-important step while spiritual maturity provides the impetus to do so. We have Jesus as our ultimate model for both kinds of maturity. We need to be following him on both paths.