Why are we using the bureaucratic language of business and the socialist language of the collective to describe Christian maturity in the Family of God?
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Col 1:9-14, NIV]
We are being asked to see Christian development as a “process” that takes place in “community.” This is great language for corporate settings or government programs. But the language more common to Paul’s epistles, including all of the verses that James Samra points out to us, is much closer to “My brothers and sisters, be like your Father.” Words mean things. That being the case, I wonder if we are not using the wrong language here. For example:
- Not “community” but “family.” Community is a group of individuals meeting with something in common. Community also defines the collective which demands allegiance. Family is unified by blood relationships and covenants. The Christian is aligned to God.
- Not “process” but “growing up in God’s family as mature children of God.” Process is series of defined actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Computers can do this. Maturing is defined by relationships, overcoming challenges, and making personal decisions and commitments. Within the Family of God, it means becoming like the Father we spend time with. Not business rules, but a relationship.
- Not “learning to be like God” but “fulfilling our true nature as God’s adopted child and brother/sister to Jesus.” We are not working toward righteousness, but living out Christ’s righteousness in us.
Why do we accept such poor substitutes? First, we are no longer a family-centered culture. We have not been since the industrial revolution, as Rod Dreher points out in The Benedict Option. Not only has the traditional family unit been dismantled, but we are no longer generational families living in a community together, which had been common up until the mid-1800s or so. We have been fully conditioned to see society as our family, and that our development should be according to society. We try and christianize this but it falls well short.
Second, Christ was deliberate that we should grow up to be like our Father not because we are merely associated with Him as Christians, but because we have been super-naturally adopted by Him into his Family. We must reflect Him because we are now His offspring (Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers.”). We must mature in our faith because we are now growing up within God’s family. It is impossible to grow up in a close-knit family with a strong and loving father and not take away at least some of his habits, his priorities, his outlook on life, and his moral values.
We are happy to accept forgiveness for our sins but never fully acknowledge that we are now a part of the Family of God. We are that pesky, angry, frustrated adopted teen-ager who hides up in his or her room all the time, not interacting with the family. Not spending time with Abba, asking questions, and learning from Him. Real maturity is coming downstairs and sitting at His feet, and being part of family fellowship, and then going out and working in the fields together.
Perhaps if we had a better understanding of being “well-beloved children” we would have no problem with spiritual development.