The Single Biggest Sign of Spiritual Maturity (Do You Know What it Is?)
“You two are real Christians, aren’t you?”
The question took JP and me by surprise. I mean, how do you answer a question like that?
Behind the question laid an implication: some people aren’t real Christians. Or, at least, some people don’t seem like real Christians.
JP and I eyed each other before we answered in unison.
But we couldn’t just let the conversation end. It’s not every day someone jolts you with a wake-up call about how you’re faith is perceived–and why.
So, we followed up with a question of our own. “What makes you think we’re real Christians?
We felt certain the young man’s answer would give us more insight than a year full of sermons.
Now it was his turn to be a little shocked. He furrowed his brow as if to say, “Don’t you already know?”
His answer, it turns out, is the single biggest indicator of a person’s spiritual maturity.
But before I reveal what it is, what do you think it is?
- Daily prayer?
- Consistent quiet times?
- Helping the poor?
- Bible knowledge?
- Church involvement?
- Sharing your faith?
These things are good, of course, but none is the most telling sign of spiritual maturity. Truthfully, it’s possible to practice the right spiritual habits, yet remain as spiritually authentic as a doorknob.
Unsurprisingly, none of these things led the young man standing in front of us to conclude we were real Christians.
So what was it?
He stated simply,
“It’s how you treat each other.”
And just like that, there it was; the reason people believe our faith is real.
I’ll be the first to confess (and my family would confirm) that my actions don’t always align with my faith. I’m as flawed as anyone alive. In many ways, more.
Still, the young man’s words ring true. His observation echoes the words of Jesus.
“By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35.
The single biggest indicator of our spiritual maturity is how we treat each other.
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The most spiritually mature person in your church may not be the person who knows the Bible best, or the one who’s been a Christian longest, or the one who is most involved. You’ll know a spiritually mature person by how they treat others.
And if you want to gauge the maturity of your own faith, it’s simple, really: Examine how you treat others.
Not the way you wish you treated others. Or the way you know you should treat others. Instead, consider the way you actually treat others.
I know. I know. This is a convicting truth for all of us–me included.
Some of us have fallen into the unhealthy habit of treating those around us in ways that are less than loving. And worse, we justify it! This is the very picture of emotional and spiritual immaturity.
But bad habits can be broken.
Love is like riding a bicycle. Once you know how, you never really forget.
But how? How do we stop being harsh and start being kind? How do we stop speaking words that hurt and start speaking words that help?
How do we actually live like real Christians?
First, we must understand there is a one-to-one correlation between being loving and being loved.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “hurt people, hurt people”. But did you know the opposite is true?
Loved people, love people.
The sad reality of our culture is that millions of people don’t feel loved–largely because they haven’t been loved. Just today I heard Dr. Jill Hubbard on New Life Live! say, “a large percentage of our population has never had a single redemptive relationship in their entire life”.
But you, my sweet friend, have. You are loved. (Yes, you.) Don’t take my word for it; God said so. Just in case you have a hard time embracing this reality, read the verses below. Insert your name whenever you see a pronoun like “you”, “we”, “us”, or “me”. Read them out loud if you can (I find the truths seep deeper into my soul when I say them out loud).
- “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
- “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”. – Galatians 2:20
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a)
Because you are a loved person, you have the capacity to be a loving person.
This is the secret to real spiritual maturity. And it’s the sign of a real Christian.
There is a one-to-one correlation between being loved and being loving.
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