“If you don’t want me to treat you like a child, don’t act like a child.” “Act your age, not your shoe size.” “Come on sweetie. You are ten years old. I should not have to remind you to brush your teeth.” “Son, you are in middle school. YES, you need to take a shower.”
You likely heard these phrases, or phrases like them, when you were a child. And if you are a parent, you have shared them with your kids. The phrases often come from a good place, a longing to nudge children beyond childhood, to prod the forsaking of childish ways. Good parents love their children, but they don’t want them to remain in perpetual childhood. They love them enough to nurture them and discipline them toward maturity, toward growing up.
Sadly, some Christians remain childish, or as the apostle Paul declared, “babies in Christ… because you are still worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). There is a difference between a childlike faith and a childish Christian, and as we grow in our childlike faith, we lose our childish ways.
I have recently been reading some of Andrew Murray’s classic works in the Legacy of Faith Library, which I highly recommend. Murray’s chapter on “carnal Christians” provides great insight on a childish Christian and how we can recognize this in our own hearts (I am taking these three points from Murray). A childish Christian…
1. Can’t help others
Just as a baby can only be helped and cannot help others, a childish Christian continually consumes without ever contributing. A mature Christian does both, continuing to feast on the good news of Jesus and the encouragement of others while simultaneously serving as Christ has served him or her.
2. Creates division
Children can fight over the most meaningless things. And so do childish Christians. A divisive Christian is an immature Christian. A divided church is an immature church. When the apostle Paul called the Christians in Corinth childish and carnal, he illustrated their carnality by pointing out that they were uniting around their favorite apostle and not around Christ.
3. Displays gifts without grace
Just because someone uses their gifts to serve others does not mean they use their gifts with grace. It is possible for ministry leaders to grow ministries while their hearts grow cold. Gifts can be on display while the fruit of the Spirit is not, and this is a sign of a childish Christian.