“…for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14 ESV).
I looked up the word mature in some online dictionaries. They all seemed to attribute maturity to those who have reached the state of being fully grown. It kind of struck me as funny because that really wasn’t the definition I remember hearing as I grew up. Maturity was never a matter of age. One could be young and mature or older and immature. Maturity had to do with making good decisions, knowing the right thing to do and choosing to do it, being more concerned with doing right than “having fun”. I remember thinking that maturity sure sounded awful; but what can I say? I was immature.
Paul was trying to give some indicators of maturity, because he was a disciple about the business of making disciples. Too many big-name evangelists, and pastors big and small–not to mention everyday Christians–have changed the look of Christianity for the worse. Chasing numbers for bragging rights and feathers in their spiritual caps, they have forgotten the call of Christ. Perhaps I have forgotten the call of Christ.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 ESV). These days, at least in the Western world, I don’t see a lot of cross bearing. And I don’t exclude myself from this statement. The voice of Christianity has largely been silenced by the political machine in the name of tolerance. We have held our tongues while small minority groups have been built up into institutions of their own. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am a firm believer in “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” James put all of us in the same boat when he said, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10 ESV).
We need to be more about the love of God and less about whether one sin is greater than another. We need to be more about being disciples who demonstrate the love of Christ, not with condemnation, but by actually living like Christ, being Christ-like. But I digress.
Paul pointed out that the immature are “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” I take this to mean that the immature don’t progress in their faith; they never move toward being disciples. When Christianity “went mainstream”, it went from a faith to a religion. And while religion serves a function, it is not the source of life.
Continuing with his description of maturity, Paul draws a sharp contrast between the mature and the immature. “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” I think this description clarifies the meaning of the “word of righteousness”. It also yields a strong directive on what we are to be about.
God’s call for holiness didn’t end with salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but it did change the motivation for holiness. Maturity. Doing what is right because it is right. Refraining from doing what is wrong because it is wrong. Regardless of the consequences. After all, conforming to the image of God’s Son is one of our highest callings (Romans 8:29).
I know that I have some things to think about. How about you?