Kids often believe that when they become an adult their lives will get more enjoyable because they will have more freedom to make the choices they fantasized about making as a child. Once those kids become adults, they realize that the freedom they dreamt about comes at a higher cost than they could have seen through their child eyes. This naivety is what I call the maturity dilemma.
Immaturity can be characterized by both an over simplistic view of a complex world or an unwillingness to do the hard work of processing those complexities. Each step into maturity brings new responsibility to process our lives better through the added lens of new revelation and understanding.
Knowing more, however, does not simplify our lives or bring more freedom to us. A wise man named Solomon wrote “for in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Knowing more makes us more responsible to process life better so that we respond in more mature ways.
To respond well, we must learn how to process life’s situations down to their core elements, identify and apply the appropriate truth principles, and formulate a healthy response. Most situations have multiple layers and require the expertise of multiple truths to process them well. The immature often fail to see more than a single layer and make conclusions that might be partially right but are oversimplified and ultimately inadequate. Mastering this process is the key to ongoing maturity and the associated influence of leadership into our culture and those around us.
The Apostle Paul called the Corinthian believers out for their immaturity. The irony was that they saw themselves as being mature. To help them mature, Paul sets out to teach them how to think instead of simply what to think. Rote learning – memorization of the “right” answers – leads to the lowest level of maturity and can be an accomplice to a performance/law-based view of the world. Jesus came to free us from any requirement of rote performance into an organic relationship and an active learning lifestyle that leads to functional maturity.
One of the issues creating a maturity dilemma for the Church in Paul’s day was the eating of meat offered to idols. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul demonstrates what good processing (how to think) looks like as he breaks this dilemma down and comes to principled conclusions. Layer 1: Since idols are not “gods” at all, it cannot be wrong for a believer to eat meat that might have been used in idol worship. Layer 2: However, since there were believers who still thought it a sin to eat such meat, when any of them might be affected by our partaking, we should not eat it. Notice the two layers in this situation and the two principles necessary to process it out to a mature conclusion.
Maturity is the capability to stand in the tension of two seemingly opposing truths and act on both without violating either. Paul’s processing leads to two different conclusions – “yes” on eating meat offered to idols and “no” on the same thing when a different variable is applied. So, which is it? It requires maturity to understand that the answer is actually both “yes” and “no” depending on the specific situation.
The internal tension this kind of processing produces is another manifestation of the maturity dilemma. Immaturity uncovers itself by not being able to survive this tension between what might seem to be two opposing truths and their appropriate but differing outcomes. Maturity demands that we embrace the tension and humbly allow it to process the inside of us – leading to our personal growth.
Let me further illustrate this maturity dilemma and truth tension. Jesus passed the maturity test that the Pharisees failed when dealing with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He loved her by not condemning her BUT ALSO held her to the righteous standard – “sin no more”. Can you feel the truth tension? The right answer was not simplistic – either apply this truth or that truth; the right answer was in applying both truths to the same complex life situation this woman found herself in.
A current example would be how believers should approach and interact with a new presidential administration and their agenda. If we are mature and have learned to process well, we should love the new administration by praying in faith for and faithfully praying over them. BUT maturity also demands that we use our voice to hold them to the righteous standard of the Kingdom. Maturity keeps our hearts clean and our voice strong!
Our world is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19) – sons mature enough to process well and lead through the corruption all around it. These sons have wrestled through the maturity dilemma and are winning the personal growth battle as they are being taught by Holy Spirit how to think based on all the relevant truth. These mature sons are willing to live in the tension of multiple layers of truth so that the world can see the truth about who God is through their clear representation regardless of the issue or the circumstance.
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