I love the online Bible commentaries of Bob Utley and refer to them often in my personal study. He takes scripture 100% seriously as God’s word, but he is not a dogmatic follower of any theological system. He inspires me to reexamine my own interpretations; sometimes he leads me to change my mind. And when I disagree with him, he at least inspires me to examine why I believe what I believe.
I recently read a comment he made saying that forgiveness and mercy are the most important measures of growing Christian maturity. That struck me because I have always been curious about how you measure Christian maturity.
Unfortunately, maturity is too often measured quantitatively. You show you are mature by racking up the right totals of ministry activities and volunteering for things. But then you are never sure what the right total is. You might think you are doing OK, only to have someone tell you “You should be volunteering more!” Driven by guilt, you then put in even more volunteer time. Does that increase in quantity mean you are more mature … or that you are afraid of what people think and get bullied into doing things?
Another bogus Christian maturity measure is the quantity of Bible knowledge. Someone has memorized a mass quantity of Bible verses. And taken plenty of Bible courses, obtaining more knowledge of each book in the Bible than just about anyone. But has that created maturity…or just arrogance?
So I love that Utley is saying that the measure of Christian maturity is qualitative. And certainly forgiveness and mercy are important qualities. After all, what good is it if I am busy doing virtuous deeds while silently seething, replaying various grudges in my mind, and not releasing them and bringing them to the cross? Or if I have very harsh feelings towards those who don’t participate in ministry things the way that I do?
That said, I’d like to make Utley’s point a little wider, by bringing in the fruits of the spirit. These fruits are all great qualitative indicators of maturity that grow in our own lives and allow us to encourage people instead of laying guilt on them.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)
Looking at these fruits has been beneficial during the pandemic. Since the quantity of stuff to do is being cut back, then the quality of what’s going on in my heart, head and brain is laid bare. A good opportunity to replace any slop there with fruit!