What is Spiritual Maturity
What is Spiritual Maturity?
Jesus was the most spiritually mature person that ever lived. Most Christians could probably agree with that statement. However, Jesus was not merely human. He was a divine personality. Jesus, being both human and divine sets an impossible transcendent standard of spiritual maturity. Christians reach toward and yet accept that standard as unattainable. Jesus was sinless, a mystifying perfection impossible for us. Among ourselves then we accept a lesser spiritual state of Christ and cast ourselves on the mercy of God? How do we define this lesser standard of maturity? If all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God who is fit to lead and mentor other souls?
Christians may read the letters of Paul more than the gospels because they can identify with Paul’s humanity, the self-avowed “chief of sinners” better than they can identify with Jesus, the sinless Son of God. Further, Christians focus on Jesus more than God because Jesus was both human and divine. Christians identify with Jesus easier than with God. Our humility, our awareness of our sins and limits affects the boldness with which we approach God. When we spiritual apprehend divinity we reverently and fearfully bow to divinity. To become spiritually mature we must also learn to stand, speak and live with divinity. Cultivating godliness involves effort. We study scripture, meditate, reflect and pray. We invite God into our lives. We labor within ourselves to attain to the upward call of God. God gives us growth and transforms us gradually over time. Even the Apostle Paul withdrew to Arabia for a time after his conversion to Christianity. There he absorbed Christ’s teaching. There God transformed Paul for special service. Theoretically, with time and refinement our spiritual striving becomes spiritual maturity. Our souls can glow like Moses’ face if we seek and embrace God. Spiritual maturity usually reveals itself by the positive impact of our words, deeds and character in the world.
Churches have leadership, typically patriarchal, individuals thought qualified to lead, teach, preach and perhaps be pastoral. There are many sects, denominations and Christian subcultures. They seek to find a people qualified for church leadership based on denominational education, doctrinal conformity, ethnic or racial identity and cultural origin. When evaluating clergy candidates what if we really do know what spiritual maturity is? We may only know points of reference in our own denomination, our own sectarian group. We may be part of a denomination that believes it has cornered the market on truth and doctrinal rectitude. This is typical throughout the Christian world. True spiritual maturity might prevent a person from qualifying to have a voice in such a denominational church. Would a Catholic priest be considered qualified to preach in a Baptist church or visa versa? Would a Greek Orthodox clergyman be able to secure a pulpit minister position in a Methodist church or visa versa? Perhaps, but the effort to cross over and gain credibility would be enormous. Consider the treatment Jesus, the Son of God, the supreme spiritually mature man received at the hands of the deeply religious Jews. In the same way deeply religious Christians may understand their church doctrines and subculture but not understand godliness or spiritual life. How then is the mendicant soul, wanting to better themselves, to figure out what being a spiritually healthy, cultivated and mature Christian man or woman really means?
In 1st Corinthians 13:9-13 Paul summarized the adult mind, ostensibly the mature Christian perspective as follows.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In Romans 12:17-18 Paulalso told us to be at peace with all men so far as it depends upon us.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Again, what is Christian spiritual maturity? What is right in the sight of all men? Scripture is replete with principles to be studied in pursuit of spiritual maturity. Yes, we should love one another and be at peace with all people to the extent that it depends upon us. Having poured over scripture for over thirty years it has been my experience that spiritual growth is an ongoing struggle. Christ is the gold standard of spiritual maturity but none of us can approach doing what He did. So how does the Christian man or woman grow in the Lord? If we do develop spiritually, how then do we stand up, dare to speak and dare to exert a positive influence in our denominational subculture? Toward what form of maturity are we striving when we speak of Christian spiritual maturity? How can we go beyond the developmental spiritual limits in our denominational church?
Paul, the chief of sinners also put himself forward as an example to follow. We are all the chief of sinners yet we may be thrust into leadership as examples if we live in a community of believers. All we can do really is forgive ourselves, move toward loving and accepting ourselves and press on toward the upward call of God. No one ever arrives but God is with us as we strive. Whatever Christian spiritual maturity may be, even Paul acknowledged that he had not “laid hold of it yet.”
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; Philippians 3:13-15