Are you a lover in diapers or are you a mature lover? Sounds strange to say that love can be classified as mature or childish, but it is not far from the truth. This is a lesson that I learn every week with my wife. It began when we were dating and has never stopped since. What does it mean to love your partner maturely? Can you love them immaturely, so to speak? Yes to both questions.
In 1st Corinthians 13:11, Paul the apostle mentions something about his maturity in the context of love. He says “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Note that he says “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” It is important to note that putting away childish things did not make Paul a man but rather becoming a man made him put away childish things. When it comes to love, there are far too many people struggling to impart maturity on themselves by putting away childish things. It won’t work. The only way to put away childish things is by becoming mature, not the other way round. Maturity is the goal; putting away childish things is a result.
You may be surprised that the world does not disagree with God concerning what love should be. The list on 1st Corinthians 13 is very popular. When Paul says, love is patient, love is kind- rarely will you find the world challenging that. Who does not desire a kind, patient lover? However, the world and Christ disagree on the process. Why? At the heart of worldliness, men and women desire that kind of love without pursuing maturity. At an innocent level, the world may say be kind to your partner, be patient because it is good, moral and the right thing to do. When the motivation to be good expires, the world will create incentives. When being kind has no benefit then we see the heart of immature love.
This is an example of immature love: Husbands are asked by the world to be patient with their wives in order to get sex. Women are asked by the world to be kind to their husbands in order to get their way. That, Beloved, is a childish love. Childish love prostitutes virtue to gain personal reward. Christ Jesus says that husbands should be patient with their wives, period. He says that wives should be kind to their husbands, period. To express the virtues of love in a bid to gain a personal benefit is akin to putting childish things away hoping for maturity. It won’t work. We acquire maturity and the childish things of love fall away easily. Putting away childish things did not make Paul a man but rather becoming a man made him put away childish things.
So, how do we become mature, you ask? We will soon look at how to become mature. However, before we pursue maturity, we need to know what it looks like and what immaturity in love looks like. We need to see what childish things will be put away once we pursue maturity.
What does mature love look like? Mature love is summed up in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
That list is good, because it shows me that I am imperfect. It makes me aware that I am a work in progress and I need to pursue maturity. That list proves that we all have some degree of immaturity in us. However, we will be fools to think that the list in 1 Corinthians is a to-do list. It is NOT a to-do list. The list in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is a result list. When we grow in maturity the fruit of that pursuit is 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. The result/fruit is patience, kindness, lack of envy, humility, seasoned words, selflessness, clam spiritedness, quick forgiveness, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering, unrelenting. All those characteristics are not things we are to do to become mature. Rather, they are fruits, results if you like, of an already mature person. If you take the list in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a to-do list, you will find yourself in the verse 11 quagmire of trying to put away childish things to become mature. But remember, putting away childish things did not make Paul a man but rather becoming a man made him put away childish things.
Similarly, the reverse of those beautiful characteristics is also a result of immaturity in love. When people are unkind and impatient, it is not a mere manifestation of their willpower but rather it is a show of what is in their heart. At that moment, their heart is also producing fruits and results that prove their immaturity in love. So an immature lover will counter 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 i.e. they will be: impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, easily angered, keepers of records of wrongs, delighting in evil, attacking, doubtful, hopeless, giving up and failing.
|Mature Love||Immature love|
|patience, kindness, lack of envy, humility, seasoned words, selflessness, clam spiritedness, quick forgiveness, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering, unrelenting||impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, easily angered, keepers of records of wrongs, delighting in evil, attacking, doubtful, hopeless, giving up and failing.|
Look at the table and be true to yourself. Where do you belong? If you are quick to note that your partner falls on the bad list, then you are automatically in the immature love category, Beloved. Why, because the Word of God teaches us that one of love’s overarching characteristics demonstrated by Christ himself is humility. Humility is considering others better than you. Also, a hypocritical humility can cause one to beat themselves up for being so terrible. Another definition of humility: it is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself, less. Don’t be too self-absorbed in your misery- it isn’t a show of humility; it is a show of deflated pride, that is pride nonetheless.
None of us is perfect, falling purely in the mature list. However, if most of your characteristics are in the mature list, rejoice because God is working in you beloved and your fruit is showing! However, in each of us there are a few bad fruits. We are still quick to speak before we listen. We say unkind words to our partners. We are envious of their success that is why we do not empower them. We are too proud to apologize when we wrong our partners. We lose our tempers very easily. We have a diarized record in our minds of the number of times our partner wronged us. We rejoice/ laugh when they fail. We give up on relationships without trying. We are skeptical about love. Many of these bad fruits are subject to our personalities. The melancholic is likely to hold grudges. The choleric is likely to be unkind. The sanguine is likely to give up. The phlegmatic is likely to be selfish. Each of us has a degree of immaturity when it comes to expressing love. We long to grow. However as we do, remember, putting away childish things did not make Paul a man but rather becoming a man made him put away childish things.
How do we become men/ mature so that the childish love can be put away?
Consider the most mature love!
The first way in which we become men/mature is by considering the greatest love that ever existed/exists. Jesus said in John 15:13 that greater love has none than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. Consider what God did to save your soul. He humbled himself, left His glory and became a servant. He took the punishment of your sin, laid it on himself and was punished on your behalf. He was whipped with metal hooks. His flesh was minced by flogging.
He was bled, beaten and made to carry a heavy cross so that you wouldn’t have to. They drove nails through his hands and feet. He experienced the rejection of the Father so that you would not have to be rejected. He was patient with your sin, kind to your soul, humble to the core, spoke life to you, was quick to forgive you, protected you, hoped in you and remained unrelenting until it was finished when he breathed his last. He died so that you could live. Consider that kind of love. Until you are moved by the gravity of what it cost God to win you, then will you understand the need to extend the same love to your partner. It was free on your part but it cost God everything (for a while). Similarly, your love will mature upon this consideration at no expense to your partner but at a cost for you (also for a while). When this love changes our hearts, we put away childish things.
Bath in mature love!
Secondly, we become men with mature love once we bath in it frequently. What do I mean? The Word of God is the water of maturity. The word of God teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains, instructs, convicts, and judges our thoughts and attitudes. Each time we soak in the Word of God, we are changed. Do you spend time to read, meditate and memorize scripture? Each time we spend time in the Word of God we are transformed inwardly to be mature men and we consequently put away childish things.
Breathe in mature love!
Finally, we become men with mature love when we walk with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into our hearts when we accept Christ. He then uses the word we have read to direct us. He also works in our conscience, our thoughts, our intuition and through other people to enable us produce fruits of maturity. He teaches us to loathe what the world calls love and teaches us to embrace what God calls love. The world says love is natural, God The Holy Spirit tell you that love is intentional. The Holy Spirit teaches us to ignore the lust on TV series and embrace the true beauty of sexuality in marriage. He helps you put away childish things. The Holy Spirit helps you select what music to listen and helps you put away childish music. He enables you to choose wise friends and abandon childish ones. He even gives you wisdom on how to dress and ignore childish attire that may cause sin to abound. He informs you what to say and how to say it and keeps your tongue from hurtful childish talk. The Holy Spirit made Paul a mature man and as a result/fruit, he put away childish things. Denying the flesh won’t make you walk in the spirit but walking in the Spirit will make you deny the flesh.
Examine your life today, Beloved. Are you childish or mature in love? Always remember, putting away childish things did not make Paul a man but rather becoming a man made him put away childish things.