When we think of a “mature” person, we typically remember an adult that doesn’t laugh at inappropriate or innuendo kinds of joking. We also imagine someone who is more formal than messy, stoic rather than expressive, and nice…but probably a little boring. Maturity is a trait that we know we should eventually have, or should probably have a little bit more than we currently do. Acting like we’re mature typically leads to people thinking we’re mature – and when we reach the point that people think of us as a mature person, it means that we are one…right?
As with everything else in life, this a good topic to see from God’s perspective. When we look at the Scriptures, we find that God’s already provided an explanation of what maturity looks like for us. A survey of the New Testament shows that many authors touch on this topic, and some do so repeatedly. Whenever the maturity of a believer is discussed, the author speaks of it as a goal or as the ultimate destination for those who already trust Jesus for eternal life.
The Greek word most commonly translated as mature carries the idea of someone or something that is finished and “perfect” in terms of being fully completed. The end goal of the maturing process has been met. There is no longer potential to be something…because now the person or object has achieved all of its potential.
However, reaching maturity isn’t an end to itself. When we become mature, we won’t sit around and be impressed with ourselves; instead, maturity is the starting point for an especially close relationship with God, where He reveals Himself and the deep things about Him. A mature Christian has the strength, the self-control, and the wisdom to live life as God designed us.
Even still, we are quick to think that maturity is something that happens to us on an individual basis. We also expect that it occurs only after we’ve obtained enough knowledge or experience. However, that’s not how Paul described the goal of maturity to the believers in Colossae:
We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
Did you notice how Paul desires that all believers reach maturity…and then immediately talks about their hearts? Paul includes understanding and knowledge as part of our maturing process, but those are listed after the needs of our hearts.
Also notice that Paul uses the plural here – I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love. Maturity happens within the context of community in God’s family. We won’t become complete or reach our full potential outside of our relationships with other believers.
This kind of maturity will be more messy than formal, expressive instead of stoic, and certainly full of never-dull moments. Growing together will be hard at times, but it brings about the kind of maturity we were made for.