Growing Up in Love

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).

- 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Children are used as examples in several passages in the New Testament, as Jesus and His apostles exhort us to be childlike in several specific ways. Matthew 18:1–6, for example, says that we cannot enter the kingdom of God without becoming “like children” (v. 4). In 1 Corinthians 14:20, the apostle Paul tell us how important it is for us to “be infants” with respect to doing evil.

These examples are metaphors, and clearly they are not designed to cover all aspects of the Christian life. Regrettably, Matthew 18:4 has frequently been taken in recent years to mean that we should not want to dig too deeply into the things of God. Instead of developing a concern to plumb the depths of Scripture, people have used Jesus’ words to justify an ignorance of biblical doctrine and the distinctiveness of the Christian gospel. Such attitudes are childish, not childlike. That we must enter the kingdom like a child means that we must have the same simple, unquestioning trust in God and all that He says in His Word that very young children have in what their parents do and say. It is not a justification for ignorance of His character and the doctrines taught in His Word. Moreover, to be infants with respect to evil refers to the skill we are to have in knowing and doing what is wrong. As far as sin goes, we are to imitate young children, who are more open about their own shortcomings, and who do not yet possess the finesse and expertise in the deeds of the kingdom of darkness.

Actually, Scripture repeatedly commands us to mature in our faith. First Corinthians 13:11, which exhorts us to abandon childish ways, is one passage that encourages such maturity. Our immature love should disturb us and move us to manifest the righteous, mature love we see in this chapter. This requires us to put an emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is love (Gal. 5:22). Unlike the Corinthians, we are not to childlishly pursue the “flashy” gifts of the Spirit but maturity in doctrine and love.

The New Testament calls us again and again to make slow, steady progress to maturity as we trust in Jesus (Heb. 12:1–2). Above all else, we are to seek after the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33), and we can do this by seeking to manifest the righteous love of Christ described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Coram Deo

Knowledge of truth and the practice of love, as two of the chief indicators of Christian maturity, must both be emphasized in our walk with the Lord. Consistent study of the doctrines taught in the Bible is vital for our growth, and so is the love that demonstrates the attractiveness of the gospel. Ask yourself today if you emphasize truth more than love or love more than truth, and seek to bring both virtues into balance in your life.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 143:9–12
Hebrews 5:11–14

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