Friday, March 11

Maturity and Changing Perspectives

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. --Philippians 3:15

In the verses preceding this one, Paul writes about how he is pressing on toward the goal. This is likely the view he speaks of in verse 15. Mature Christians should press ahead and use the experiences from which they have already learned a great deal. Why does Paul place the emphasis on those who aren't mature? Perhaps it is because maturation comes at a price. Mature Christians can lead others by example. They have already been through some of life's storms and have inevitably learned a lot about God in those circumstances.

Newer Christians might be full of spiritual fire and enthusiasm--which is a good thing-- but they might not know how not to let themselves become discouraged when they lose some of that excitement and zeal later in their Christian walks. Mature Christians have already learned that a relationship with God is like any other relationship; it has its high points and low points. Some days are totally absorbed in God and His goodness and just bust at the seams with blessings. Other days there are disagreements and it can be difficult to understand why God does the things he does.

This verse talks about thinking differently about things at some point. I have often wondered if it was okay for me to change my opinion about some aspects of Christianity or about how to apply Christian ethics in different situations. The most recent example that comes to mind is how, as a Christian, I should approach discussions about creation and evolution. Over the last few years, my viewpoints have changed quite a bit as I have sought to combine what I know scientifically with what I believe spiritually. When thinking about today's verse and the spiritual maturity, I surmised that as we spiritually grow, we become more "in tune" with what God wants us to know. With maturity comes a deeper understanding of the heart and nature of God. Things that we always believed "just because" are eventually accepted based on Biblical evidence that we might not have had the maturity to comprehend in the early stages of our spiritual development.

Let me give you an everyday example of what I mean. It is a common belief that a houseplant thrives if it is spoken to on a regular basis. Some people say that you need to nurture and encourage your plant and speak kindly to it to achieve optimum results. I used to wonder about that, but a junior high science fair project seemed to offer conclusive evidence that a plant truly did grow more and appear healthier the more it was spoken to.

While studying biology and environmental science in college, I learned about photosynthesis, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle and all the things that go on behind the scenes in nature that play a part in plant growth and development. Acquiring this knowledge gave me a new perspective on what I already believed about the benefits of talking to a houseplant. I still agreed that talking to a plant was good, but I knew that the carbon dioxide was the real benefit, and not a series of positive comments. In fact, it does not matter what you say to your prized chrysanthemums; you could say "you're ugly and your mother's a fern!" and it wouldn't have even the slightest of adverse effects on the plant. (However, if you and your plant get into a real fight and are not on speaking terms for a long period of time, I suggest you have your head examined!)

As you can see, it's pefectly okay to believe something even without fully understanding it. As we mature and learn more, we will be able to understand more. As I have matured as a Christian, I have had to change my views about some things, but the one thing I grow more confident of is the undeniable fact that God loves me. I admit that I am still a far cry from completely understanding the magnitude and depth of his love for me, but that's something I hope to learn more about each day for the rest of my life. I, like the writer of the letter to the Philippians, continue to press on toward that goal. It is continually my prayer that I do not lose sight of what God wants me to accomplish here on earth before reaching that goal.

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