We’ve as the church have been doing a miserable job at this.
We abandon spiritual infants.
It’s like this: My friend Chris lost over 100 pounds. It was an impressive feat, no doubt. His first step to weight loss? Switching from regular Coca-Cola to Coke Zero. Once he made the switch he saw ten pounds slide right off and he was hooked. Chris began making more changes to his habits: he began cooking more meals at home, he bought a bike and would ride occasionally throughout the week, later he switched to drinking water with every meal and at least 80 oz a day. After following this pattern for over a year, Chris went from 350 to 250 pounds. It was a dramatic change, and we were all proud of him.
We celebrate when people make little changes in the realm of fitness. We don’t when it comes to Christlikeness. At some point we’ve come to believe that as soon as you say “Jesus is Lord” you’ve got to have all your ducks in a row. Saying “Jesus is Lord” doesn’t make you perfect. We all have heard testimonies of people who have given their lives to the Lord and never taken another sip of alcohol or touched a pack of cigarettes. To those people, I say, “Congratulations! Praise God for what he did in your life!” For the rest of us I quote Luke 4:25 – “I assure you there were many other widows in Israel in Elijah’s time…” Elijah had done an amazing life-saving miracle for a widow, but Jesus says there were many more who didn’t receive that same act of God.
I can assure you that there are many other Christ followers in the world…
And Jesus didn’t pop into our lives and say, “Now that you believe in me, here’s a heaping helping of joy! Your depression? GONE! Self-discipline is tough for you? Ka-pow, not anymore! While we’re add it, take some peace and give me that anxiousness. And here’s some patience to match!”
For most of us, Jesus doesn’t do the whole remodeling at once. Jesus does it one room at a time.
Recently, some famous actors and pop stars have professed a newfound faith in Jesus. Praise God for that. Unfortunately, we Christians have done what we’re infamous for: we hop on the judgement train.
“He can’t be a real Christian because he still sings about sex!”
“He didn’t really give his life to Jesus because he still says swear words in his movies.”
“He just got arrested, no Christians get arrested!”
Let’s pull it together here, friends. They accepted Jesus and switched to Coke Zero. They haven’t bough a bike yet, but give them time. The Bible calls them “spiritual infants.” Being a baby is not a fault. It’s a natural stage for everyone. The problem is when someone has been a Christ-follower for years and is still sucking their thumb.
We know that we are progressing Spiritually if we see ourselves increasing in:
But we do not give much grace to people who have just become Christ followers. Instead, we get angry when infants make a mess in their spiritual diapers. We sound more like the 5 year old brothers and sisters complaining about how bad the baby stinks than the loving mother or father who is quick to clean the mess and console the crying newborn.
100 pounds doesn’t fall off in an instant.
An infant is not instantly potty-trained.
No one takes one step and reaches the fifth floor.
Do you know what new believers will do when they feel the bludgeons of their fellow believers’ criticisms? They’ll decide that they like Jesus but not the church—which leads to some terrible theology and often a form of pseudo-christianity. You can make it through life a believer without a church just like you can cross the pacific without a boat. Technically it’s possible, but it’s not going to happen. Or worse, these new criticized believers will see just how immature their more experienced brothers and sisters are, and they’ll give up the race. If you lost 20 pounds ten years ago, you don’t have the right to harass someone who orders diet Pepsi at Taco Bell.
Let’s decide to get better. Let’s become more comfortable accepting the flawed followers, the ones searching for Jesus, the first-steppers, the ones who still swear like sailors but also proclaim Jesus as the King. Let’s see that our infants find a home among us, feel comfortable to grow, learn to walk, soil themselves, and come to spiritual adulthood at their own pace.