Loving Spiritually Immature Christians

forgive_youContinued from here.

On of the hardest parts of dealing with spiritually immature Christians is continuing to love them while they are behaving badly. When someone is rude to you, it’s natural to want to be rude back, but that’s not how Jesus behaved when he was tortured and killed. Even when we must take action, we should always do it gently and in love, even when we must be firm. I find it helpful to recognize that the behavior is indicative of spiritual immaturity and fueled by pain. When I see the person as a wounded child acting through an adult’s body, it helps me find more compassion, even when the person has wounded me.

I also find it helpful to remember that the kindest action is not necessarily giving the person what he or she wants. It doesn’t help someone to mature by rewarding him or her for poor behavior. Just as giving a toddler his own way to stop his tantrum is a poor long-term solution, allowing a spiritually immature person to get his own way through throwing an adult version of a temper tantrum does not benefit him. Sometimes, the most loving answer is, “No.”

Saying no (setting appropriate boundaries) can be particularly difficult when the spiritually immature person is someone we love who will experience negative consequences if we stand our ground. We must remember that God often allows us to experience the negative consequences of our actions so that we can learn. After all, if God repeatedly rescued us from the consequences of our poor choices, why would we ever change?

As I have matured in my faith, I have grown more gentle in how I interact with others. I’m not claiming never to lose my temper, but those instances have grown farther and farther apart as God has taught me the beauty and value of gentleness. Ultimately, the goal in interacting with spiritually immature Christians is not to change their behavior – it’s to lead them toward changing their hearts, which only God can do. Your “No” can be the wakeup call the person needs to go before the Lord, repent, and grow. In the meantime, cover the person in prayer, always remembering that Jesus died for that person, just as he died for you.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with angels’ wings and a halo saying, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Dealing with Spiritually Immature Christians

prayer2Continued from here.

What do you do when someone who believes he or she is spiritually immature behaves badly toward you? The first step is always prayer – pray for God’s wisdom and discernment for how best to respond to the person. If possible, I recommend delaying giving a response until you have had the opportunity to go before the Lord in prayer. For example, if a spiritually immature Christian leaves you a rude voice mail or sends you a rude email, do not respond until after you have sought God’s leadership. If it happens face-to-face, try hearing the person out but then tell the person you’d like to go to God in prayer first and then will respond later.

The next step is to look to the Bible for how best to respond. Possible responses run the gamut from ignoring the rudeness to having an uncomfortable conversation in which boundaries are set or enforced. This is why we need to pray for God’s wisdom and discernment to respond appropriately. Remember that however you respond is modeling behavior – whether positive or negative – to someone who is less spiritually mature. Your response should be as gentle as possible while still firm enough to enforce appropriate boundaries.

One factor to consider is how many people stand to be harmed by the spiritually immature behavior. If someone is only being rude to you, an option might be to extend grace by responding to the insult kindly and then praying for the person. This has worked effectively for me, particularly with interpersonal relationships. I have gone to the Father in prayer, asking Him to stand up for me, and He has used my gentle response to nudge the person into conviction and repentance. Sometimes people (particularly family) are looking for an argument. When we refuse to push back, that gives God the space to work on that person’s heart.

However, if someone’s behavior is disruptive enough to hurt others, appropriate boundaries may need to be enforced to prevent that person from leading others in the wrong direction. For example, let’s say someone is gossiping about a situation to try to rally other people to bring about disharmony. That’s a situation that needs to be addressed quickly before disunity happens … but even then, praying to God before acting is critical.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Judging Others through the Eyes of Spiritual Immaturity

fork_knifeContinued from here.

As I stated in my last blog entry, there’s nothing “wrong” with being spiritually immature. After all, we all start out that way. When we first become Christians, we are spiritual infants, needing spiritual milk to help us grow. We move on to spiritual baby food and then eventually to solid spiritual food. Just as we wouldn’t feed steak to a three-month-old baby, we need to “feed” spiritually immature Christians what they are ready for.

The problem is that many Christians continue eating spiritual milk and fail to grow in their faith. They only want to focus on the passages of scripture that benefit them, such as the requirement that other Christians extend them grace. However, when someone else is in need of grace, they don’t react with spiritual maturity but, instead, lash out in judgment, behaving like a spiritual toddler. I’ve seen people do this who have been Christians for decades. The passage of time does not, in itself, cause someone to mature spiritually.

I have found that I am most patient in areas where I have matured because I remember what it was like to be spiritually immature in that area. For example, when someone struggles with unforgiveness, I share my experience and gently lead them toward forgiveness, emphasizing that they have every reason to feel as they do, just as I did in my own situation. Because I remember how difficult and painful being bitter was for me, I’m extra gentle with people who are in that place.

However, when I was spiritually immature, I would instead react in judgment, heaping guilt on top of the pain that the other person was already experiencing. And let’s face it – spiritual immaturity is painful! It hurts to carry around bitterness … or to question whether you are really loved … or to fear that if you don’t take control over a situation, your life is going to implode. God once placed heavily on my heart that I was never to judge other people in their brokenness and that all sin arises out of brokenness. Thus, when I see people behaving poorly, I need to extend them grace, knowing that pain is what is driving their poor behavior. That’s tough to do, and nearly impossible to do when we are ourselves still spiritually immature.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace licking her lips while holding a fork and knife. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Assessing Your Own Level of Spiritual Maturity

math_equationsContinued from here.

When I was a teenager, I was wise beyond my years in some areas, which led me to mistakenly believe that I was as mature as an adult. I wasn’t. While I was certainly more mature than the average teen in some ways, I was quite immature in other areas. From the perspective of maturity, I look back and cringe over just how immature I was back then – how completely clueless I was about different aspects of life.

The same dynamic is true in our spiritual lives. Most of us who have been walking with Christ for a while have areas of our spiritual lives that have ripened but others that have not. Just as I did as a teenager, it can be easy for Christians to believe that maturity in one area automatically means maturity in all areas, but that’s rarely the case. It takes time to mature, and we have to be willing to walk with God through the difficult process of growing in maturity in a particular area of our lives.

It’s vitally important to be able to accurately assess in which areas we have matured and in which we are still spiritual babies. We have no business trying to offer advice to other Christians about areas of their spiritual journeys in which we are just as immature, if not more so. If we delude ourselves into believing we are spiritually mature in areas where we are not, we run the risk of causing harm to others. Just as I would not give a toddler the keys to my car, I don’t need to be offering “constructive criticism” to other Christians in areas in which I, myself, have not matured.

The best way to assess your own level of spiritual maturity is to compare your behavior to that of Jesus, Paul, and others in the Bible. When someone wrongs you, does your reaction look like Jesus, who blessed his persecutors? When you are in an uncomfortable situation, do you remain joyful, like Paul? If your honest answer is no, that’s OK. It doesn’t make you “bad.” It simply means you are spiritually immature and that this is an area for growth.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking about math. Courtesy Bitmoji.

 

Spiritually Immature Christians

babyThis week, I’m going to blog about a topic that’s important but one that many people might feel uncomfortable talking about: interacting with spiritually immature Christians.

Interestingly, some of the most spiritually immature Christians I have met were unaware of being spiritually immature (myself included back in the day!). Belonging to a church for decades does not make someone spiritually mature, nor does having lots of head knowledge about the Bible. In fact, if having lots of head knowledge about the Bible made someone spiritually mature, then Satan would be the most spiritually mature being on the planet! Earning a theology degree, pastoring a church, or serving as a missionary does not make a person spiritually mature. Nor does the mere passage of time since you received Jesus into your heart result in spiritual maturity.

Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. In other words, spiritually mature people behave in ways that are consistent with the fruit of the spirit while spiritually immature people do not. Spiritually mature people are joyful even when their circumstances are not, peaceful even when they are surrounded by chaos, and gentle even when people are rude to them. Does that sound like you?

How spiritually mature are you? Joyce Meyer shared a simple way to make this determination about yourself. If you want to assess your own level of spiritual maturity, think about how you behaved the last time you didn’t get your way. Did you cuss the other person out? Complain about the situation to everyone willing to listen? Pout? Manipulate the situation to try to get your way?

Or did you extend grace where it wasn’t deserved? Did you submit to an authority figure’s decision, even though you didn’t agree with it? Did you pray for the person who made you angry? Did you choose not to assert your rights, even though most people wouldn’t blame you for doing so? Did you choose to forgive a wrong? Or respond kindly to someone who was rude?

Having a strong handle on your own level of spiritual maturity can help you better deal with others who are not as spiritually mature as they believe themselves to be.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drinking out of a baby’s bottle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]