In the next several blogs, I’d like to explore what it takes to move in our spiritual lives and in our lives together as the Body of Christ. If you know me, you know I have a heart for the church. There are many churches which seems to miss out on what it means to be the Body of Christ in a community. I’ve been to their services – some are loud and energetic and some are subdued – something is missing. People arrive and leave unchanged. Christians who have lost their vitality are creating churches that look like them. In this series, I’d like for you to come along with me to explore what could be different. But I need something from you. I need you to think, pray, comment and even critique. We will enjoy this more, if we can have some interaction along the way. And then, let’s see where the Spirit takes us on this journey.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 has gotten my attention the past few days, “But I brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”
What hit me was that Paul wanted to speak to them in a certain way. He wanted to address them as spiritual people – people who have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). What does it mean to address someone as a spiritual person? If we contrast it with what is next in the passage, “but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ”, Paul seems to mean, I wanted to talk to you like mature adults who understood the deep things of Christ. But you’re still thinking like kids. They were stuck in their development. Their spiritual activities may have continued, but their spiritual growth did not. Because of that, Paul was going to go over things they should have already understood.Instinctively, most of us know the difference between helping kids and helping adults.
Last summer I went to Canada for a conference. I had a pocket full of change. Canada loves its coins, different shapes, sizes and more denominations than we use here in the States. I stepped up to pay for a cup of coffee and instead of trying to hold up the line by fumbling through my unfamiliar coinage, I just held out my hand full of change and said, “here, take what you want.” The clerk changed her tone. And she began explaining to me just what she was taking and why. All the while she was adding it up, out loud, for all the shop to hear. At the end she said, “Money can be hard, I’m good at it because I’ve been doing it a long time.” I looked at my wife feeling like an empowered 4 year old – after all, it wasn’t my fault, “money can be hard.”
With children, we simplify. With children, we make the mysterious more concrete. With children, we take more steps, we go slower, we use simpler vocabulary. And for children and the uninitiated that’s appropriate. Once we’ve been in the faith a while, God might like to address us as adults. As a Dad, I’ve loved having conversations with my kids at all ages. But I much more enjoy them now as adults. When we talk, we can talk mystery. We can delve into deeper things. I can allude and analogize. I can ask questions that poke, prod and dig beneath the surface. This makes me wonder, how would God speak with us if we weren’t stuck in infancy? Where would he lead? What would he reveal to us about ourselves, our world, his work and his purposes? How would my fellowship with him be different?
What were the signs of their continued infancy? If you read the rest of the book of 1 Corinthians, there is a list of issues they didn’t understand. The overarching result of being stuck was they weren’t living together well. They were divided over which human leaders they followed. They were selfish and showed favoritism. They put people into categories. They had a pattern of unresolved conflict. Their worship was people-focused. The message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection had gotten lost. God’s glorious future had lost its shine. Their lives were lived by the seen, not the unseen.
This is what they experienced as a body, but isn’t it also what we see in our own lives? Is God having to address issues that should be second nature to us by now? Do we take our eyes off the mystery of Christ’s love and live in comparison with others? Are our spiritual activities more about us and how we feel about them, rather than what Christ is doing in them?
In my next blog, I’ll write about some ways to let the Spirit of God diagnose us and our development. Do you have any comments, or suggestions?
Until then, here’s my prayer … “Father, thank you for not leaving us as infants, but wanting us to mature as your adult daughters and sons. Thank you for your gentle touch that loves, comforts, guides, directs and corrects us along the path. And thank you to the Son, Jesus who gives us his mind, that we might be changed day by day. And thank you to the Spirit, who empowers and informs our journey. Lord, there are areas of my life where I am still in need. Forgive my stubbornness to grow, I pray, and give me the courage to grow. Amen.”