If you are reading this, you probably care about the idea of being a mature Christian. I do not wish to boast of my spiritual maturity; please do not read this as an article of declaration; far from it. I am still maturing myself, but I offer these things as a meditation – firstly to myself, but then to you also, as a means to measure and a goal to aspire to in the ways of maturity. The points themselves will not be in detail but rather serve as markers on the road, to help in your spiritual development.
Do you suffer for the faith?
In Mathew 10:38, Jesus describes following Him as the way of the cross, a symbol of suffering and humiliation, and yet Christ commands us to pick up this cross and follow Him. In these words, there is both encouragement and warning. Those who follow Christ – truly – will meet with resistance from those who are opposed to Christ. So, are you suffering for the faith? This could be in words, deeds, or inaction. It could be institutional discrimination or outright persecution solely because you have decided to go against the world, ideologies, organisations, groups, ideas, or belief systems that are opposed to Christ. You have made enemies for Jesus’ sake!
Consider these words from Philippians 3:8-11: “For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul understood the Christian walk as sharing in the sufferings of Christ because, as His body, Christ suffers in the Church; dying to the aspirations, hopes, dreams, values, and beliefs of this world. One of the signs of a truly mature Christian is that you have placed Christ before friendships, family, career…even liberty, property, and life! This cultivates fortitude, inner strength, conviction, and steadfastness.
Continuing in Philippians 3:12, Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Note that Paul seems to see this as a progression towards perfection. Even a man like Paul, hand-picked by Christ Himself, understood his journey in faith as ongoing and developing. Likewise, suffering for Christ matures us as Christians; it is not just that it shows we are mature.
Do you practice hospitality?
The Christian who is an elder of the church must be someone known for their hospitality. This is one of the characteristics looked for in a church elder; the very title implies one who is mature in the faith. (As such you could just write an article on an elder and say – this is what maturity looks like – and you would not be far wrong at all.)
Consider these words in Titus 1: 8: “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”
That is a description of hospitality right there and, yes, all of those characteristics appear in this article, the entire list of which contains the implicit need for a disciplined life. While being holy is on the list, here we are dealing with hospitality first. It is the willingness to entertain strangers, to give of your time, energy, and resources to welcome and host the brother and sister in Christ who have come in from the cold and are not going to be members of the congregation. The one just passing through, the non-Christian visitor to the Church? We should be looking for this among our church leaders.
However, do we look for this among ourselves – do we do the same? Why, you might think, did Peter say ‘offer hospitality to one another without grumbling’? Because it can be a burden, a suffering for the faith, to offer hospitality to strangers. It eats into everything; the pantry, time, schedules, and plans. However, that ability to lay aside and offer a welcome in a generous spirit to the alien (immigrant/refugee/homeless/person you just met at church) is precisely what cultivates the virtues of the Christian disciple and his temperaments towards Christ. Once again, doing this is not just a sign that you are mature – it matures you in Christ! This practice cultivates generosity, liberality, freedom of temperament and spirit, and a flexibility to the urges of the spirit.
Do you keep your word?
We Christians should be plain speakers. Our ‘yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should mean ‘no’. When we make a wise and godly commitment, we should be keen to keep it. The importance of keeping our word, especially our vows, can not be understated. Consider Numbers 30:2: “If a man vows a vow to the Lord or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
Ecclesiastes says, “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”
To speak and to keep our word is a binding principle to the Christian who is called to be holy like our Father in heaven is holy – and who said this in the Psalms, through David: “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.”
Therefore, be sober-minded in what you pledge, and wise in what we commit to. Do not speak out of anger, and repent quickly when we do! Keep all those things we commit ourself to. Many Christians who are not religious (e.g., paid/supported Christians) do not realise that vows should govern our lives. Have you ever considered that a Christian called to the vocation of being a tradesman, should take vows – like when you marry – to govern his work life? Doctors and nurses still do! Have you found your vocation – they hem it in with vows – swear by nothing of course – a vow is not the same as to ‘swear by’ something. This practice of keeping your word; cultivates faithfulness, self-control, honesty, and wisdom.
Do you fast often?
Christ simply said: ‘When you fast’; and with that – the debate about whether you should fast is ended – you should! So, do you? Fasting can take different forms and shapes; it could be going hard vegan; it could be going without food and drink for short periods, it could be abstaining from certain kinds of foods; it does involve our relation to food and drink and is connected to our stomach. The ancient Church – as evidenced by the Didache, instructed Christians to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (except in the Easter and Christmas festivals & Sundays); to fast the forty days of Lent; and forty days before Christmas. The Western Church needs to rediscover this discipline, as its spirituality is lax and soft – and we have Christians being formed to embody both laxity in practice and are more spiritual gelo, than spiritual warrior. I want to encourage you to adopt this pattern of fasting into your life; and learn more about it. Why – because it cultivates you in your – self-control; it highlights to you – how passions and desires; can control your behaviour, it shows to you – that you can master; your body! Doing this – not only is a sign you are mature, but it helps you to mature!
Do you study about the faith?
In 2 Tim 2:15, we read the following: ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’
So here we are again – back to emulating our elders in the faith; the saints who stand above us are to be our models and they should be lifted up as our examples to follow by all of us: consider Philippians 3 again:
16 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.17 Brothers, join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Notice we should embody what we have attained and keep to it; both these passages, allow for imperfections, for the room to grow some more – notice how Paul instructs us to walk in the way of saints; the godly. Therefore, when the elders are called to ‘correctly handle the word of truth’ that should also be a pattern of life for us. This can only be achieved when we read the word of GOD after the likeness of the Church Fathers, the elders of the whole Church. To be a mature Christian; we must study the faith; that I hasten to add, is not just doing Bible Studies (a practice only possible since the invention of the printing press and mass production) – something impossible to Paul’s audience; but rather, the study of both of the faith in its entirety: its customs, beliefs, values, ethics, aesthetics, traditions, prejudices, and yes – now because we can – the scriptures; in the light of and in engagement with the things aforementioned. This we should do – because is not just a sign of maturity – but its practice matures us. It cultivates within us: knowledge of truth, firmness of belief, and opens up avenues of reformation of ourselves, and our fellowships, and our societies!
Are you invested in a Christian identity?
One of the chief reasons why Christians fall away from the faith; is that they are not invested in their Christian identity – they can just drop it with no personal cost! So put the thought another way – if you decided (GOD forbid) to stop following Christ tomorrow – what would it cost you? Your job, your marriage, the respect of your closest friends, would you consider the money, time, and energy you invested wasted in terms of years – how ‘invested’ are you in your Christian identity? You see – if you can say – it will cost me nothing – then you are saying that – the Christianisation of your life is shallow; and has not impacted your walk as a human being upon this earth. The more you have invested in your Christian identity – those sacrifices you made – because you are a Christian; that would seem to have been all for nothing – if now you give up; the more mature you are in the faith. A Christian of maturity; can not easily walk away from the faith – because the cost of doing so – would be high! Your life should be invested; in your relationships, in your business connections, in your marriage, in your friendships, through your time, your finances, your energy!
Consider Acts 4:32
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
Yes – this does point us firmly to the idea of a Benedict community in which the whole of our lives is wrapped up in the life of the Church. The more you invest in your Christian identity; in terms of your life – in all of its aspects – is not only a sign of your spiritual maturity – but will mature you more in the faith! This embodies solidarity, unity, faithfulness, and community as a Christian; in community.
Do you pray regularly?
This one is possibly the most preached on in the Church; and encouraged, and so I will not say much here; except that you should be regularly speaking with our Father, offering up prayer through His Son, and glorifying Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; daily; for in doing so – you allow the Holy Spirit to work on you and through you; and draw you closer to the Father through the Son. There is a wealth of tools and resources to help you with this; along with methods and teaching on the topic, which makes it easy for you to learn and grow in this area of your faith. I would only add one encouragement do not neglect the Lord’s prayer. Christ said to pray like this: Mathew 6: 9 – 13; whether you use it a modal for your own prayer, use its very words, or integrate in some creative way both of them; but let us not fall too far from the master’s teachings on prayer; use the examples of prayer in the Bible to educate your life on this important aspect of our faith.
Do you evangelise?
We need to be clear on something here; Christ did not call us to preach – no; read the great commission;
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Teaching – not preaching; discipling – not converting; since the Evangelical movement took off in the 1700s – Christians – especially those keen on evangelism as I am; have almost forgotten what the great commission is all about. Firstly, let us remember that Christ preached the good news first Luke 4: 43; and Mark 1: 14. The substance of the Gospel, is the reality of the Kingdom of GOD both coming and here already on earth; NOT; and I say again NOT – Christ crucified for your sins! One enters into the Kingdom of GOD through belief in the death and resurrection of the and formally ‘witness’ to it in their Baptism; but once in that Kingdom they must then grow to be like Christ, putting off the old self and clothing ourselves in a new mind. Consider Ephesians 4: 20 – 24.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
This is what it is to make disciples. Men teach men how to be Christian men, and women teach women how to be Christian women in the community. How can we do that if we only see one another an hour or two a week? Therefore, when we evangelise, we are not bound to outdated and culturally inappropriate methods like street preaching; we live in an age of social media – that is where the street is. If you think we can only evangelise by preaching – then I want to tell you – you are an immature Christian. Conversations; answering questions asked of us, explaining how a disciple grapples with the issue raised to us; this is effective evangelism; no need to shoehorn into every encounter clichés and catchphrases about ‘Jesus died for your sins’ and ‘Jesus loves you’ (true as these statements are) they only need to be said – when they are actually relevant to the person you are speaking to in the concerns they want to talk about. The Job of the Christian evangelist; is to draw people into the orbit of the Church; so that they might be sucked in by its vortex, and to make people fascinated with Christ as if we trust Christ’s words: “I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We need only uplift Him and fascinate people about Him; get them to engage with Him – and the Holy Spirit will do the rest!
Therefore a mature Christian doing evangelism – has moved beyond a mere gospel message to actually engaging with folks’ thoughts, opinions, and concerns; worked them out as a disciple – and is seeking to disciple others!
Consider Philippians 3 again: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”
We are defining ourselves based on the future hope of the Parousia and the consummation of the Church into the fullness of the Kingdom of GOD. All very wordy stuff; until you consider, that this Kingdom of the future, is supposed to be through the Church invading the present world; and taking control of it for her king! Evangelism is not just one soul at a time; but the Christianisation of all aspects of society, including, law, politics, economics; history, art, philosophy, and aesthetics! We do not think just as individuals – and so can not just be saved as individuals. Evangelism has to be integrated into your very life; through its own Christianisation – so that all points of interaction with you – the other – encounter Christ at work in you; he sees you, transforming the world around you – or you and a group of Christians!
Do you serve the Church in some way?
The sign of a mature Christian; is that they do not approach the Church – the bride of Christ – the people of GOD; with any other desire but to serve her. You do not come to her, because you want to build a business empire and network; you do not come to her because you hope in her to build a social life, you do not come to her because you hope she entertain you. You do not come to her to fleece her – as some false pastors do. No; you see her as Christ sees her:
I compare you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 10 Your cheeks are beautiful with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels… How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how very beautiful! Your eyes are like doves. The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are fragrant firs. Song of Songs Chapter One.
If Christ considers His bride in such a manner – how can we – ‘the friends’ – consider her any less? How then; can we not play our part? For as a body, we are the Church, as individuals ‘friends’ to the Church. Therefore we must embody the words of our Lord who gave us this new Command as a Covenant People:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
This love is expressed in service – just as Christ washed the feet of His disciples in the aforementioned passage in John 13: 34 – 35. Something Paul also re-iterates in His own writing: when he says in Ephesians 6: 10:
10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We should come to the body of Christ, from a place of serving her; serving our brothers and sisters; we chiefly do this by offering whatever skills, resources, abilities, and time we have within our person to her service. I would say this is best done when not focussed on just one fellowship – but by helping as many fellowships as possible; but if that is just one – then fine – do it there. This service is our sacrifice, the greatest embodiment of our ‘living sacrifice’ in the ‘temple of GOD’. This is the sign of the mature Christian; is that he/she comes to Church to serve others, not to be served; and when I say Church here, I mean in both its formal (Sunday congregations; parachurch organisation; centrally organised congregational life) and informal life (organic spontaneous gathering; and associations)
Do your goals in life include how you can strengthen the Church? I mean the Church not as an institution in the first instance but as a people: consider:
1 Thessalonians 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Romans 14:19: So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
The apostolic teaching is clear – one of our ambitions as Christians is to build up other Christians; build them up to wholeness, strength, success, faithfulness, virtue, truth, and stability. Our enemies should cry out against us: ‘See how they love one another’. For it is in how we ‘love one another’; that the world will know that the Father has sent the Son into the world; and all men will know we are His disciples – all by how we love one another. Therefore we should love and care for one another like friends, few people are interested in joining a club – that has lots of meetings. We need to be a society of mutual and real support; communicated in practical ways. When your ‘love’ has moved beyond words; and prayers, beyond feelings; and expresses itself in real practical aid – to someone because they bear the name of Christ; then you have found the starting point of the level of maturity expected of you!
Consider Romans 15:1-11: We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
If we are to imitate Christ – then we are to bare up the weak; and to build them into something strong: emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, socially! Seeking not our good but their good. This might not see much change in a short time, but over a long time could result in a real difference to their life and thus the life of the Church; for if all the parts of the body are made strong – then the Church becomes strong.
Do you have solidarity with the persecuted Church? The natural outflowing of the last two points leads inexorably to solidarity with the persecuted Church – consider 1 Corinthians 12: 25 – 27:
25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
We can not separate ourselves from the Christians of another land because we do not live there. We as a body are united in all things – every triumph and disaster of Christianity is the possession and experience of us all. We have to throw off individualism, nationalism, tribalism, and especially sectarianism; anything that would separate Christians from Christians; or dilute our solidarity with one another. This bodily unity of the Church; should express itself politically, economically, socially, and spiritually Church is above all other loyalties – even loyalty to family. We must identify solely and completely with Christ and His church; never betraying our unity for any other cause whatsoever! Therefore, it follows that a Christian is not driven by nor fights for, any cause but the kingdom of GOD and the triumph of the Church; and is opposed to all religions, ideologies, systems, structures, and values, that are a threat to the Church of Christ. The mature Christian has put aside all other worldly ideologies, parties, and movements; and expressly gives all their energy to the body of Christ, and in all things and matters carries a concern for His persecuted brethren wherever they are in the world.
Do you care about the plight of the poor?
Christians who have a heart like our Lord and GOD; and have a concern for the poor – consider these passages: Deuteronomy 15:7 If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.
Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
Psalm 9:18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Christ understands being his disciple – as having a direct concern for the poor and the fight against poverty. Therefore a Christian who wants to be mature; should have or will involve himself in this fight. Again; like with the Church, this can not be in nice words and prayers alone; but in real practical efforts. So that we might be ‘doers of the word and not hearers only’. There are countless initiatives, groups, charities; and actions possible – therefore there is no need to labour this point; many Christians are alive to it. However, our willingness to meet with the poor; and connect with them in real ways, to enter into their suffering – and give practical remedy; is as you have most likely guessed, not just a sign of maturity – but will mature you as a Christian; You will cultivate, empathy, compassion, charity in all its forms! Whilst it is a lesser good to send money to such groups if you do not have time; in terms of spiritual maturity in this matter; nothing will be more propellant to your character growth than to share time with those struggling in life; and see and experience the world as they do. I say without irony, that some of you who read this – maybe the very poor – I am speaking of; for you then, the challenge is to be willing to share in solidarity with all those who like you struggle in life; and organise yourselves in ‘base communities’ to begin to work your way out of the poverty traps and their effects, with the wider Church. A study of Liberation Theology, whilst by no means perfect; would be helpful here. The Church should not be a club for hipster people – consider the pronouncement of James 2:
For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor man…
We should make no distinction amongst Christians based on linen and cloth, on wealthy or poor appearance; but many do; because they are immature in the faith; still favouring these things over valuing truth and virtue. When we consider in the early Church; that slaves became Bishops – that poor men became leaders of the Church; we should seek to embody a different economy. A homeless man who truly embodies faith and virtue, can with the support of his fellowship – if he is not already – be educated, to the leader of the whole congregation; even of the whole communion. If you find yourself; avoiding the impoverished Christian; the scruffy looking, the poorly dressed, the less glamourous – and not wishing to associate with them; then you have not yet matured as a Christian; you should not have such a filter; but associate with all according to the faith and virtue they embody. We must be conscious within ourselves to see if we are applying the wrong filters, for the wrong reasons. We sin gravely – when we sideline the poor in our fellowships.
Have you found and are you following a vocation?
I am not in a position here to write out an essay on vocation, but I would like to offer an outline to get you started in your thinking and take this occasion to address a couple of the mistakes people make in thinking about vocation. In a sense, all our vocations are essentially the same – ‘be holy as your father in heaven is holy’ – but the means of becoming holy for me, may differ very different from the path for you! The way I might ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ may look different for yourself. We all speak as Christians of GOD having a plan for us – so why does this not include a particular vocation (even if it is one millions of others are doing at the same time.) Consider the appeal of the Apostles:
Ephesians 4:1: Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…
He was calling them to embody truth and virtue – but does a married carpenter embody truth and virtue in the same way as a single mother? Naturally – we must say no – and thus we can see that each of us; has a specific way of life that is opened to us on account of other factors! Thus what you have the ability to do affects what you are called to do; what you have the opportunity to do, is what you are called to do!
Consider the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:20: “Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.”
Here he is mindful of social cohesion and the status of slaves and married couples. He does not want them to use the faith as an excuse to do what they want! We must grow into our calling – not act arbitrarily – using our Lord’s name in vain to justify us doing whatever we please. The door must open to us; if it is closed and we can not enter, we can go through; your calling is never to leave your wife! So do you have the opportunity to do what you think your calling is?
Consider the words of the Apostle again!
2 Thessalonians 1:11: To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,
‘worthy of your calling’ – shows that spiritual growth is expected – we are to grow into our salvation as living icons of Christ! Thus – our specific calling must make us better Christians, and this means it can never contradict the teachings of the apostles of prophets and apostles. It must also come from a place of desire. We must want to do the thing we feel called to – so that we might do it freely and without compulsion!
Consider the world of the Apostle again!
Colossians 1:10: so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
We see again; that our mode of life as a Christian; our vocation; should bear fruit; we actually have to be good at the thing we are called to; and able to do it well; and in doing it, we become better Christians; better disciples of Christ. God would never call us to something – that in doing it – makes us a worse Christian!
Consider how GOD has worked in the past!
Judges 13:12 Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?”
GOD has a purpose for you to do – that is to the good of His kingdom. It is particular and is rooted in the tradition of the prophets and apostles. The vocation is something GOD intends even before we are born; the good works he wishes us to walk in! It is certainly true, that anyone through whom GOD has achieved anything – is someone who walked their vocation in their life. Also, those that love our walk in the Lord, will encourage us in the direction of our calling; those that resist our walk in the Lord, will resist our walk in our calling.
I want to address some misunderstandings of this important question: firstly a vocation can be anything – that is not a contradiction to the walk of faith. You can have a vocation to be: a soldier, a police officer, a nurse, a doctor, a carer, an aid worker, an artist, an actor, social worker, a road sweep, a mother, a father, an entrepreneur, a scientist, a philosopher, an environmentalist, a peace activist, a writer, an evangelist, a deacon, an elder, an apostle, a prophet, to adopt, to foster, to be a vet; a monk, a nun… and so it goes on; my point is this; don’t assume your vocation means you work in a ‘religious capacity’ nearly every walk of life can be a calling. However, do not assume that every walk of life entitles you to make a living out of your calling: if GOD calls you to be a writer, a philosopher, a deacon, or something else not valued by society or church; you will probably have to work – whilst pursuing your calling. Also, whilst if you are walking in your calling – you will find great personal satisfaction; walking in it, is not the promise of an easy life!
Do you give alms? Once again; Christ does not say IF you give alms, but WHEN you give alms; and so we are expected to give alms as a Christian. This does mean financially, and it does mean to the poor; but especially those in the ‘house of faith’. A Christian should give generously, as much as in his heart he has decided to give; and to do so cheerfully! Notice the freedom here; notice what is not there: compulsion; almsgiving is not a tax; nor is it a tithe; whilst Old Testament tithing is oft used as a guide, a principle, a maxim within Church discipline – I want to be clear Christians do not tithe because we have to; we tithe because we want to; in other words, if you do not want to give 10% of your income – don’t! The focus of our giving – does not have to be to the local congregation either (it can be) but it does not have to be; it can be towards any good thing; or organisation. I would encourage – that you focus your resources on good Christian organisations, doing Christian work, because if the Church does not support it’s own – who will? Consider the words of our Lord:
Matthew 10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.
Our focus is on the Church – ‘who is my disciple’ some errant applications of this generalise it to humanity, but that is strictly not the words of our Lord! Therefore, focus your charity on meeting the needs of the Church – for only when the Church has learned to deal with its own needs will it be in the best position to help its neighbours. Notice here the personal nature of the giving, while this is not to be read as a restriction to our giving; it does open up an important aspect of our giving – the giving of ourselves, in time and energy; it means more to give the tea yourself to the homeless women, than just to pay for someone else to do it – though both are good things.
Matthew 10:8b Freely you have received; freely give.
We can not ‘give out of compulsion’ our almsgiving is not a redistributive tax! Nor is what I have said a commentary on such taxes.
Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Finally, you can know your soul better by reflecting deeply on what you spend your money on – it will tell you a lot about your priorities. The things you give your money to; tell you what you care about it; so have a deep think – about if there is room for you to grow in this matter. Where is your heart – let your finances tell you a story and see if you need to increase in the Christianisation of your life!
Does the cause of the Kingdom of GOD and the Church outweigh all other political concerns?
One of the clearest signs of Christian maturity – is where the Kingdom features in your thinking! Our Lord said this: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ Mt 6: 33; this means that above all other concerns to us; before your concern for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the lost soul, justice, we must seek a personal holiness of life! We must seek to be a friend of GOD – by seeking to be a true family of GOD; we achieve this virtuous state by living in community: our Lord said: ‘nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Lk 17: 21. We live it as the Church – together! The cause of the kingdom must replace your socialist, nationalist, libertarian, ethnocentric, aspirations; environmentalist for the Kingdom of GOD, has its own King; and royal law, and its own citizens, with their own needs and wants; that sets its own agenda in the real world! Have you considered, how you can form business networks to this end, or political structures to this end, or social groups to this end? The life of the Church is not just in the formal Sunday gathering, but in all these para-church activities – the Kingdom can and does advance! This is not to be understood, as turning the Church into an NGO or service provider, a fault of many of our Churches, the Kingdom of GOD and its work, is not about filling in where the state fails – as a supplement; but is a people of GOD with real allegiance to another sovereign and His ‘manifesto’. He should reign and rule on earth – as He does in heaven. We seek the overthrow of all political systems, institutions, and ideologies that are against His rule! His rule must be in all forms of power, influence, and authority; wherever and however they are situated! We can not separate our personal faith from public life – nor can we assent to the idea that our faith can affect our politics; without aspiring for the establishment of a new Christendom!
Does the sermon on the mount impact and influence your life?
There are a few key themes that come through in the teachings of Christ; and the sermon of the mount embodies the spirit of them; it can be found between Chapters 5 – 7 of Mathew; it was something Christ taught over and over again; as did his disciples; as itinerant preachers, along with His parables, and the constant refrain of the coming of the Kingdom of GOD; which was then established and destined to grow on earth; through His holy Church! The mature Christian is one who quakes as He reads the words of the Master as he imagines being present at His feet as he delivers the most powerful sermon a man will ever hear; that calls us to the greatest of all struggles, the most powerful of all revolutions; to revolt against sin itself, lodged into our own soul; and to become a new kind of human! The short summary of this ‘new creation’ is found in the beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (The new man lives in dependence upon GOD to draw from Him; his love, his truth, his hope, his justice, his zeal, to feed His soul, as the living water, the bread of life; that He acts from these realities, rather than the vices such as lust, wrath, pride, hate, greed and the like – such a person embodies the Kingdom within them)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (The new man is one who is aware of His sin; He knows how he has failed to embody GOD’s image; and knows he fails to be a good disciple – but rather than hardening his soul, and becoming numb and indifferent to his sin; and the sin in the world, his soul remains compassionate sensitive, moved by the reality of sin; and grieved by it, determined to make a change)
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (The new man is meek; not be confused with weak; which it often is – no meek means, he is not self-serving; he is not ambitious for himself; in fact concerning himself; he is shy; bashful, preferring the good of those he loves over himself! He places others first!)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (The new man is committed to the concept of righteousness, which is to embody truth and virtue, and pursues justice – hunger for it, that the poor are not oppressed, the gospel roams free, those being lead to death are saved, and the slaves set free – he is the one consumed by zeal for the church, and finds satisfaction in the pursuit of it!)
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (The new man is marked by mercy, or warranted giving even to his enemies; he fills the world with compassion; and is generous in his giving of it; he does not hate those bound to evil, even when combatting them for the cause of justice; and as soon; as they can not harm others, he seeks again to set them free.)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (The new man, becomes innocent of evil intent; the humanist Machiavellian trope is foreign to him; his heart is pure; and so there is a direct connection between his intentions and his actions; he seeks only that which is the common good, his mind is fixed on truth and virtue; not money, sex or fame; and he does lie and steal cheat to get his ambition; his thoughts are filled with good things)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. (The new man understands that he must find the paths of peace within himself, within his relationships, and, in so far as it depends on him, with all who are around him; but especially the peace of the Lord, that is to be embodied within GOD’s holy Church. The new man builds peace actively with or without the sword; as required; as GOD has made His peace with Him; and so he must live in peace and bring about peace. Seeking out reconciliation and healing when the time of peace of allows. He must work to turn swords in plows and spears into scythes, for him – peace is always the ultimate goal – even in war.)
Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (such a man convicts the world – by the witness of his life; this new man; upsets, the fraudsters, the thieves, he is hated because he opposes the racist, the drug pushers; he hunts down the pedophiles; and destroys the slave trade; he opposes the wanton destruction of the environment; the interests of big pharma and arms producers, he will not work with the communist and their politics of envy; or the politics of pride of the nationalist; he opposes the Islamist the communist, the nazi! His commitment to the King – offends all; who are not being saved like the stench of death; but to those who are being saved, he smells like the fragrance of fine incense! Thus such a man is persecuted by all these groups who serve the principalities and powers of this fallen world! Little do they understand; that this new man is actually fighting to set them free from their slavery!
Are you holy? No, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of GOD, but yet, whilst you were still a sinner, the Father sent the Son into the world, to seek and to save the lost; and now you are; you are called to be holy as the Father is holy – do all that you can to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; that you might build upon it, that which may pass through the fire – and though you will still be saved – you will not suffer a loss; but be rewarded for the works you do; which before were filthy rags before a holy god, but are now good fruits of a soul clothed in salvation! Embody as much as you can of the above, and you will be moving in the right direction. The horizon of spiritual growth is limitless – walk into the light!