“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: (1 Corinthians 13:11)
I remember hearing stories about children who would say, “she touched me,” or “he looked at me.” They would squabble over petty things such as crossing an imaginary line in a shared bedroom, or infringing upon one’s time in the bathroom. I thought it was just make-believe until I heard my own children do it. Now they are grown and have children of their own. I heard one of my children say that my granddaughters were saying the same things. It seems funny now to hear a three-year-old say, “she touched my things.
One way we react as parents is simply to roll our eyes and say, “just ignore her,” or “just get over it.” It may seem funny, at first, to hear small children say these kinds of things. It is not so funny, however, when adults act the very same way.
One way I hear this as a pastor is, “I used to go to church, but someone said something to me,” or “someone looked at me funny,” or “someone made fun of me.” I have talked to many people in my past 30 years of ministry who all have such childish reasons for not attending church. Someone looked at them wrong. Someone said something wrong. Someone made fun of their clothing. (I doubt that really happened. However, many people say it did.)
There’s a big difference between being childlike and being childish. Jesus says we are supposed to be childlike. We are supposed to be innocent, trusting, and pure. On the other hand, being childish means to be selfish, petty, and easily angered. That sounds like many people today who used to go to church. They used to attend faithfully until someone said something, someone looked at them, or they perceived that someone had made fun of them. So rather than being mature, they choose to violate the biblical commands that says we are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” in Hebrews 10: 25. It seems as though people are simply looking for any excuse to drop out of church. One petty reason is as good as another.
Notice Paul’s words in first Corinthians 13 above. He said that when we are children, we act like children, we speak as children, and we think as children. However, there comes a point in our lives when we put childish ways behind us.
When I was a child, my sister and I fought tooth and nail. I don’t remember all the things we fought about. I just remember that we fought often and constantly. It was an exasperation to our parents and to our older brothers as well. Of course from my perspective, she was always at fault, and I was always right. You know she was the one always looking for trouble. Not me. I was the innocent one. I was the victim. After all I was the youngest.
You know I’m speaking facetiously. As a mature person, and now as a grandfather, I see these childish things in a different light. There came a time, however, around the age of 14 that I consciously remember choosing not to fight with her anymore. I said, “I’m not going to fight anymore.” And from that point on, all fighting between us ceased. That was more than 40 years ago, and we have not fought since. You see, at that point I consciously decided to put childish things behind me. We have gotten along well ever since.
Now is the time for Christian maturity. If you’ve been a Christian for many years, and you stopped going to church because of some childish reaction, now is the time for you to grow up and become a mature Christian. What do mature people do? They overlook insults. They ignore hateful looks. They do what needs to be done because it is right, not just because they feel like it.
As the Apostle Peter says, we need to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter3:18).
We also need simply to grow up. We need to quit making childish excuses for not obeying our Lord and Savior. We need to attend church and Bible study so that we can grow in grace, and grow in knowledge.
What excuses have you been hiding behind to stay home from church on Sunday mornings? The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The us put childish things behind us, and do the mature things that we need to be doing.