When we become followers of Christ, we gain the potential to understand His word and become like Him. We do not, however, automatically become mature Christians either in deed or in understanding. A healthy human baby has the potential to learn all things human–language, walking on two feet, relating well to others, doing tasks, creating creations, etc. Still, this tiny baby, though fully human, knows nothing about behaving like a human (except whining and crying, which most of us never quite get over). Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.
When we enter God’s kingdom, we don’t immediately have the ability to “evaluate all things” promised in the last verses of chapter 2. Like babies, we have to learn how to live in our new world. This requires two things: willingness to let go of the old world and eagerness to explore and feed on the things of the new world.
To start with, in order to truly follow Jesus, one has to (metaphorically) pick up one’s cross and go after Him. If we’re not moving, we’re not following Jesus. If we’re not leaving the world behind, we’re not following Jesus. If we have a “secular” part of our lives and a “religious or spiritual” part, we’re not following Jesus. We can’t have one foot in the kingdom of this world and the other foot in God’s kingdom. It just doesn’t work that way. You either come over to God’s kingdom all the way or you simply haven’t come at all.
Second, we take in the “pure milk of the word” so that we can grow. Babies who don’t eat don’t just stay small. They die. New Christians who don’t desire the word of God are like babies with no appetites–they’re sick and need help. What kind of help? Well, to start out, you need God’s help. Babies cry when they need something, so cry out to God to meet your need to grow in Him. Next, all Christians, and new Christians especially, need fellowship and accountability with other Christ followers. A small group of friends studying and learning God’s word together is ideal. Pray and call out to God to help you find the right one and He’ll help you, no matter where you live. Finally, read and meditate on God’s word. See my post, How I Study God’s Word, for one method of doing this. Reading “through the bible in a year” is a great thing to do, and every Christian should read the whole bible regularly, but you need more than that. Quickly reading the bible doesn’t get you the nourishment you truly need to become more like Jesus. You need to chew before you swallow. Meditate on what God has said to you in His word.
One of the symptoms of a babe in Christ who is not growing up, is quarreling with and envying other believers. Trying to show oneself as better, or even just as good as another believer is a sign of childishness, and I don’t mean the kind of innocent childlikeness Jesus praised. Selfishness and boasting mark us as immature Christians. The more we become like Jesus, the less of these behaviors and motivations we will see in ourselves. In fact, the more we become like Jesus, the less we will look at ourselves at all, and the more we will keep our eyes on Him–where they belong.
Paul says here, to paraphrase, “You’re name-dropping, isn’t that just typical? You’re acting like the unbelievers.” Paul doesn’t want the church dividing up into factions, into personality cults, into the disciples of Apollos or the disciples of Paul or of Peter or John or James, etc. He talks about this at length through the rest of this chapter.
Does this short passage hold the reasons for the church’s failure to be as effective as most of us would like to be? How many of us truly are still babies crying (or not crying) to be fed when we should be at least teens eager to help our younger siblings learn the ways of God’s kingdom? Some of us should be grandmothers or grandfathers in the Lord, but because of our failure to do the things necessary to grow, we’re barely out of toddlerhood, if that.
There’s no shame in being a baby if you’re a new believer–a baby is a wonderful blessing, and so much fun to teach and care for and love. A 40 year old baby, however, is another thing entirely. We react with disgust to the idea of an otherwise healthy, intelligent person having to be fed and cleaned and burped and carried around; not because he’s crippled in some way, but simply because he never wanted to do the things necessary to grow up.
Let’s all do our best grow up in Jesus in every way. It’s to our advantage and the advantage of the Kingdom that we become mature believers, capable of serving Him better every day so that one day, sooner than we expect, we’ll hear those words we desire above all other praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”