Is that a hot take?
Hear me out.
“If you are mature, then you will interpret Christianity in a mature way. If you are immature, then you will interpret Christianity in an immature way.“
Makes sense, I think. But let’s explore this idea a little more because it has some VERY large implications. What if we were to distill it into a formula?
If you are X then your Christianity will likely be X.
X could be anything.
Conservative, Liberal, Fearful, Hateful, Joyful, Despairing, Hopeful, Political, Capitalist, Socialist, a Boomer, a Millenial, American, Japanese, Ethical, Philosophical, Brutal, Forgiving, etc.
Just name your adjective. They all work, they all apply.
This is one of the first lessons that we learn in seminary. Well, if we go to a good one. Some seminaries will right off the bat tell the pastor-in-training what it means “to be Biblical” or “Gospel-oriented.” These are seminaries that are trying to jump to the 2nd or 3rd step on a staircase without stepping on the first step…
The first step of seminary is to take off your glasses. I don’t mean literally, but figuratively.
All of us bring particular lenses to the Bible. All of us bring particular value systems and memories, traumas and glories to the Scriptures that all cause us to highlight or favor particular verses over others. And it doesn’t even matter if we are highlighting the best or the most difficult passages, the problem is that we highlight without even knowing we are highlighting.
Certain values or themes mean something to us (positively or negatively), and this causes us to notice Scriptures that also hit on those same values or themes. Whether you had good or bad experiences with your own father or father-figure will impact how you experience every single passage that uses the word “father.”
It is a result of taking Christianity so seriously, that we then have to turn and take OURSELVES so very seriously. Why? Because if we don’t realize what we are bringing to Christianity we are then more prone to interpreting Christianity rather than letting Christianity interpret us.
Many of us have sat under very compelling people, who were themselves immature, and therefore were interpreting Christianity for us in immature ways. Their own unresolved brokenness was leading them to (unknowingly) preach an unresolved and broken Christianity.
Fortunately, though, many of us have also had mature mentors who then preached a mature Christianity.
I wonder if the reason why so many people have supposedly walked away from religion is a result of noticing the immaturity of their leaders and simultaneously decided to also (rightfully) shuck off the immature Christianity they were handed. Is an immature Christianity better than no Christianity? Perhaps. I don’t know. But I think that Christ is willing to work with people who choose a life of maturity and love.
I guess what I am trying to say, is that if you want to grow in your faith then it might be a good idea to grow as a person. Choosing to grow in your faith while you are still looking at it through particular lenses may not be enough to cause you to grow as a person. Perhaps you could drop your favorite way of looking at the faith, and learn how another denomination does. Perhaps you should find someone completely other than your own demographic and hear what parts of the faith resonate for them. Chances are, they will have different favorite verses than you.
What if maturity means we stop telling Christianity how to be “according to us and our own un/conscious biases” and letting ourselves be confronted by it instead?
What if maturity isn’t a matter of telling other people how to be like you, but thinking about the ways in which you might be getting in the way of yourself growing?
Oof, now that’s a hot take.
Recently, I have been teaching a class on the book of Hebrews. Just once a week, one chapter a week. I have been struck by some of the Greek vocabulary that the author uses, and how frequently as well.
For instance, the word Τελοσ (Telos) and all of its variants shows up A LOT. This is the root word in our word “telescope.” It has quickly become one of my favorite Greek words.
Τέλοσ is often translated as “perfect” but it ALSO means “goal”, “end”, “purpose”, and even “mature.”
That’s right. Τελοσ means all of them. The book of Hebrews is very much concerned with our perfection/having reached the goal/coming to our end/fulfilling our purpose/being mature. How great is that?
St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his treatise defending the life of Moses as a Hebrew story of a life of wisdom to a Greek audience, taught me that perfection is not a place or thing to achieve but an ongoing process. He took perfection from being static to being dynamic.
For me, maturing means blossoming, evolving, growing, upgrading at all times. We can never finish this task because it is a perpetual task, and for this reason, our Christianity must always be blossoming, evolving, growing and upgrading at all times. If we ever switch into a defensive mode and become static in our apprehension of the Christian faith, then it has ceased to grow with us (or because of us).
So what was the point of all this? Just be mindful. Be mindful of the ways you keep yourself from experiencing a Christianity that is always just beyond your grasp, always just a little beyond your reach but that you always keep reaching for it and striving to follow it’s lead rather than telling it to sit down next to where you are.
Cheers to you, my friends. May you be holy, whole and healed and may you keep maturing, blossoming, evolving, growing, and upgrading.