February 1982

When L Became A Man

Robert F. Turner

When Paul became a man he put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). Childlike things are often commended: as guileless innocence, simplicity, etc. But the characteristics of a child may also illustrate incompleteness, and our need to grow up (Heb. 5:12-f). Worse, immaturity has a more ominous side: foolishness (Prov. 22:13), needing correction (29:15), and lack of wisdom and the ability to lead (Eccl. 10:16). Men and women of full chronological years often break up homes because the years have not brought maturity of perception and judgment. A large percentage of church problems are little more than fruits of immaturity, both spiritual and emotional.

Jesus likened Jews of his time to children playing in the market place: uncooperative, dissatisfied, and finding fault, no matter what was done. When some wanted to "play" merry, they didn't like that; and when the "play" turned to mourning, they would take no part in that either. Commentators have a field day with Matt. 11: 16-f., blaming the first, or last section of children; contrasting "play-like" with real joy or sorrow, etc. It seems the general and most obvious interpretation is best. Like immature children (in a bad sense), the self-centered, faultfinding people of Jesus' day rejected heaven's message, whether it came from a fasting John, or a feasting Jesus. The life styles of both John and Jesus were genuine —there is no suggestion made that Jesus "changed" to try and please them. The contrast in life styles only emphasizes the peevish nature of the hearers, who would be satisfied with nothing but their own party standards. Mature people accept responsibilities and act upon objective examination of evidence-- both in the physical and spiritual realm. The childish mind is ruled by whims or momentary fancies, wants its way regardless of consequences, and pouts when crossed. Like the children in Jesus' illustration, once crossed, they will not be pleased no matter what the outcome.

Maturity comes from the use of earlier learning and experience (Heb. 5: 11-f), coupled with a determination to "go on unto perfection," or "full growth." Mature people are not satisfied with a continual review of the foundation. They want to work on the superstructure, get on with the building. They appreciate and use traditional values to reach for the sky.

Paul told the Ephesians to "be no longer children" tossed to and fro "with every wind of doctrine" (4:14). Mature Christians are steadfast, do not shift here and there, either with the "brotherhood pulse" or being upset by every imagined "issue" that may arise. They are not easily deceived, for they are well grounded in solid principles of truth. They act upon conviction, not fads of the day.

And they are mature in understanding (1 Cor. 14:20). James says to pray for wisdom (1:5), with a faith that's steady. It is childish to be conceited, act like we "know it all," for true maturity makes us humble — we realize there is much we do not know. And the man who knows he does not know is a man in understanding, capable of being taught, and capable of teaching others.