I was amazed to find out that “full-grown” is more often translated “perfect,” at least in the ASV. That is ironic to me, because while I will quickly say, “I am not perfect,” I would find myself a little miffed if I were called “spiritually immature.” At my age? Surely I am a mature Christian by now.
So I looked up that Greek word and the places it is translated “perfect.” It quickly became apparent that the word does not mean “sinless.” While we understand that the meaning of a word varies according to its context in English, we seem to forget that when it comes to reading the Bible and talking about those Hebrew and Greek words. Yet, in any language, the meaning of a word is limited by its use. And so I read “mature” in every passage I found that word translated “perfect,” and found out how to recognize a mature Christian. [When you read all these passages, be sure to read “spiritually mature” every time you see “perfect.”]
The maturity level of a Christian is shown by how he treats his enemies (Matt 5:43-48), by how he controls his tongue (James 3:2), by how attached he is to his earthly possessions (Matt 19:21). A mature Christian is not easily deceived, not changeable from day to day, and speaks from a motivation of love, even when correcting someone, not from a desire for revenge, or from a feeling of arrogance, and certainly not to cause controversy for the sake of controversy (Eph 4:13-15). A mature Christian will endure, (James 1:4), and in fact, stand fully assured of his salvation (Col 4:12). When I look at those characteristics I can see that I have a way to go before I finally grow up, but at least I have some detailed areas to work on now instead of blindly aiming for some sort of vague idea of maturity or perfection.
One of the residents at the medical school recently told me that I did not look as old as my chart said I was. That was a nice moment in the day, one totally unexpected. Wouldn’t if be awful though, if he had said that I didn’t act as old as I was? That is where the test comes—not in how long I have been a Christian, but in how much I have grown as one.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love [made mature] with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world, 1 John 4:16,17.