Grow Up!

by Mark D. Roberts

Ephesians 4:11-16

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:11-16

I was the oldest of four children in my family of origin. For the most part, my siblings and I got along reasonably well. To be sure, there were times when I used my superior age and size to intimidate my brother and sisters. But there were plenty of times when they got me back. When their efforts started to hit home, I would sometimes cry out in anger, “Grow up! Just grow up!” (The funny thing is, they did grow up, and have all turned out to be fine human beings.)

If you were to assign a title to Ephesians 4:11-16, it might be “Grow Up!” But Paul writes, not in anger or frustration, but in order to encourage the readers of his letter to grow up as Christians. Consider, for example, the following excerpts from our passage: “[S]o that the body of Christ may be built up. . . . [Until we all] become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants. . . . [W]e will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head. . . . [T]he whole body . . . builds itself up in love.”

Paul assumes that we should grow up in our faith. Becoming a Christian by accepting God’s grace through faith is the beginning of lifelong growth in Christ, or at least that’s the way God has planned it. Unfortunately, many Christians have chosen the path, not of growth to maturity, but of Peter Pan Christianity: “I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!” Perhaps we have been led to believe that being a Christian is mainly about going to heaven after we die, rather than living as citizens of God’s kingdom both now and forever. Perhaps we sense that we should be maturing as Christians, but aren’t quite sure how to do this. Or, maybe our lives are so busy we just don’t pay attention to our development as disciples.

No matter what slumbers might keep us from realizing that we should be growing as Christians, Ephesians 4:11-16 is a stirring wake up call. It says to each of us—and to all of us together—”Grow up!”

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: To what extent do you think of the Christian life as an experience of growth? As you take a good look at yourself today, would you say that you are growing in Christ? Are you more of a Christian today than you were a year ago? Five years ago?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I need to hear the call of this passage today. Though I have been a Christian for a long time—50 years!—I still need to grow up in you.

As my fellow reflectors and I work through this passage together, help us to understand what it means for us to grow up in faith. Show us how we might receive your grace and respond to it so that we are maturing as Christians. Amen.

 

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal. This reflection was originally shared at TheHighCalling.org.

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