1 Corinthians 13 is well known in Scripture as the great dissertation on Love. It is a beautifully written passage detailing what genuine love looks like in the everyday life of a child of God. After Paul’s inspired words on proper Biblical love, He changes the subject with a thought-provoking lesson and a stern warning all in one verse. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS”. (I Cor 13:11).
One thing we understand from this verse is that ADULTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BEHAVE/ACT DIFFERENT THAN CHILDREN, ESPECIALLY CHRISTIAN ADULTS. But why is this statement made here and included with Paul’s treatise on love? It could be that the Holy Spirit knew that while these characteristics of love are listed in verses 1-7, readers could miss the correlation between those traits and the progression of our MATURITY into ADULT CHRISTIANS. Surely, we know that CHILDREN are not the only ones who fail to put these attitudes and behaviors into practice. Many ADULTS struggle in these same areas. This article is designed to help each one of us check our progress in becoming SPIRITUALLY MATURE. “Brethren do not be CHILDREN in understanding; however, in malice be babes”. (I Cor 14:20). Let’s list these characteristics separately, notice how CHILDREN display many of them, then give some examples of how we might act more like CHILDREN than mature ADULT CHRISTIANS in these same situations.
Characteristics of Biblical Love
Love Suffers Long/Is Patient
Is Kind/Is Gracious
Does Not Envy/Is Not Jealous
Does Not Parade Itself/Does Not Brag
Is Not Puffed Up/Is Not Arrogant
Does Not Behave Rudely/Act Unmannerly
Does Not Seek Its Own/Is Never Selfish
Is Not Provoked/Not Quick to Take Offense
Thinks No Evil/Does Not Take Into Account a Wrong Suffered
Does Not Rejoice in Iniquity/Takes No Pleasure in Wrongdoing
Rejoices in Truth/Delights in the Truth
Bears ALL Things/Bears Up Always
Believes All Things/No Limit to Its Faith
Hopes All Things/Always Hopeful
Endures All Things/Patience Without Limit
Never Fails/Never Disappears
Traits and Examples of Childish Behavior
Being Easily Offended by Others, Leading to Pouting or Sulking. Everyone has witnessed little boys and girls pout when they did not get their way or when they thought somebody hurt their feelings. It is not pretty in Children and is even less attractive in ADULTS who think other brothers and sisters are always offending them and damaging their feelings. Remember: Love BEARS ALL THINGS and ALWAYS BEARS UP and IS NOT QUICK TO TAKE OFFENSE. No Pouting.
Always Desiring and Needing Attention. You have probably noticed that when many Children do not get any attention while they are being good, they will soon start behaving badly because they desire that attention. It is not uncommon to see ADULT Christians act the same way and decide if nobody is going to listen to what they have to say or give them any attention at worship and Bible class, then why should they come. REMEMBER: Love DOES NOT BEHAVE RUDELY and DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN.
Being Jealous of Others. When one kid on the block gets a new bike, many of the others are jealous and envious of that shiny blue and silver machine. Sometimes that jealousy leads to doing damage to the bike or unfriending the lucky boy. Adult Christians may be jealous of others successes, talents, homes, cars, cooking abilities, grilling prowess, etc. Eventually these jealousies can lead to strife and contention in a congregation. REMEMBER: Love Does Not Envy.
Showing No Reliability or Steadfastness. When a child is given a job or task they do not like, in general trouble is on the way. It is often hard to keep kids working, focused on the assignment and seeing the job completed when it is something he/she did not want to do in the first place. As ADULTS, we can fall prey to this same kind of thinking at times if we are not careful. Men may think – This was not the duty I wanted this month so I may not give it my best effort if I do it at all. Women may think – I wanted to host the visiting preacher on Tuesday evening but that slot was already taken, so I just won’t do it at all. REMEMBER: Love is NEVER SELFISH nor ACTS UNMANNERLY.
Argumentative and Fussy. Some children can take these traits to new heights. They fuss and bicker with one another all the time. The most prevalent thing on most playgrounds is not physical activity but constant bickering and arguing. Just listen sometimes. Christians can be guilty of these practices also. When members fuss and bicker about something, it is usually concerning the elder’s decisions or something the preacher said, in my experience. What makes things even worse is when these members turn to Facebook, Email, cell phones, or small select group discussions before or after services to “share their grievances”. REMEMBER: Love DOES NOT ACT UNBECOMINGLY, THINKS NO EVIL, and IS KIND.
Wanting to be Up Front and In Charge. When kids are playing any sport or any game and somebody asks, “Who wants to be captain”, what kind of response do you get? If you have 10 kids, immediately 20 hands go up. Every child wants to be the leader and be in charge. Some Adults retain this mindset, especially us men. You have probably heard of cases where men have left a congregation when they were not selected to serve as an elder. Men have threatened to leave for another congregation if they were not allowed to preach, teach, lead singing on Sunday morning or more often, be allowed to offer invitations regularly, or simply participate in the PUBLIC WORSHIP as much or more than anyone else. REMEMBER: Love DOES NOT PARADE ITSELF, IS NOT PUFFED UP, and IS NOT ARROGANT.
Yes, these are shameful happenings, but they are all examples of a Christian’s behavior when he or she has not reached the proper level of SPIRITUAL MATURITY. “My brethren, these things ought not to be so”. (James 3:10) Let us all consider our attitudes and actions to make sure we are truly thinking and behaving like ADULT CHRISTIANS. May the Lord bless us all in our efforts!
(Article Background: I have been looking at my behavior over the past few years and decided that I have not always been as mature as I should have been. So, I studied I Cor 13:11 again and again giving it a lot of thought. Hence the article.)