Childish Thinking Leads To Childish LivingFr. Barnabas Powell
The older I get, the more I see myself reacting to today’s culture in full “Old Man Yelling at a Cloud” mode! And I promised myself when I was younger that I wouldn’t be that kind of “old man.” And yet, there really are deeply troubling consequences of foolish and unwise behaviors that seem to flow from immaturity! But I guess that’s all part of growing up.
Make no mistake, though, we must grow up if we are ever going to avoid repeating immature choices and being enslaved to immature ideology. A wise man once said “If you’re not a Liberal in your 20’s, you have no heart. But if you’re still a liberal in your 40’s, you have no head!” I think I know what he means here. We cannot expect our lives to produce anything of lasting value if we are constantly governed by our feeling and emotions. We have to grow up if we are ever going to learn how to live as mature and wise persons.
That ain’t easy and that requires both humility and a willingness to hear from us old dudes about wisdom that has proved durable and reliable.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 13:11-14; 14:1-5:
BRETHREN, when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
St. Paul is once again attempting to help our precious Corinthian parish grow up and say goodbye to the childish ways they have stumbled over again and again.
Here he tells them directly that it’s time to grow up spiritually by confronting them in three childish ways:
First, the childish way of being unteachable. “We see in a mirror dimly.” St. Paul tells these childish followers of Jesus that is unteachable or believing the foolish notion that we see everything clearly now, is a symptom of their childish ways. It’s when each of us believes we have nothing else to learn that we fall into the trap of childish ways. When we fail to hear wisdom, when we stop being teachable, we freeze our maturity in a moment and get stuck there.
Next, the childish way of being self-centered. The Corinthian parish was awash in “spiritual gifts” and emotional experiences and that made them even more self-centered than the most selfish child. We’ve seen this on playgrounds all over. Children are notorious for being so focused on themselves, that they have no room to “share” or “play nice” or even recognize the humanity in another. All they know is their own desires and wants. When I focus on myself to the exclusion of others, I stay gripped by the childish ways that always reduce others in my life to those who can serve me.
Finally, the childish way of being shortsighted. Being in the moment can be a good thing when it is based on a mature spiritual life. But when the immediate focus is childish, one is gripped by a tunnel vision that doesn’t allow the person to see trouble coming ahead! That blindness almost always guarantees a life that crashes because of being unprepared for what comes next!
Today, isn’t it time to put away the childishness of spiritual kindergarten and embrace the mature Orthodox Christian life of a purposeful Orthodoxy? The path to spiritual maturity and a consistent Orthodox life lies in the adult life of responsibility and a focus on doing what I must so that I can be free to do what I want! It’s this mature embrace of the purposeful lifestyle of a practicing, disciplined, Orthodox Christian that will help me grow up and be a mature follower of Christ SO THAT I can be truly grown up in Christ.
P.S. Dear Lord, You told us we had to be childlike if we were ever going to enter the Kingdom. But that isn’t a command to be immature. It’s a command to be innocent and trusting. We are further taught that we are called to put away childish ways. Please help me today to be able to keep my innocent trust in You without abandoning wisdom that comes from years and years of Holy Saints and their lives! Amen