Sunday at the little church I attend one of the elders filled the pulpit in the pastor’s absence and spoke on Ephesians 4:15: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.” He exhorted the believers to make it their goal in the coming year to put this verse into practice and discussed some of the areas of the Christian life where work might be focused, such as in the Word, prayer, fellowship, outreach, worship.
I was very challenged by this. As a father of six children I have witnessed their natural growth in the physical, mental, emotional, and social realms. When I think about growing spiritually in all aspects I immediately see that, albeit a worthy aspiration, it is definitely a tall order to fill. But I think our brother was right in reminding us that spiritual growth is more than a Sunday morning exercise, or something that occurs only in that small corner of our lives where we pray and read the Word. Comprehensive spiritual growth reaches into our private thought lives, our financial dealings, our parenting, our eating habits, our politics, our work. No area of life is untouched when genuine spiritual growth is happening. Everything is fair game for the Holy Spirit.
Or should be.
We also looked at the Ephesians text collectively: as a body of believers we are to grow up together in all aspects into Christ. Ephesians 4:15 is something like a theme verse of this particular church, and so the first Sunday of the year seemed like a fitting time to remind the fellowship of the need for holistic growth. Not only that: Paul was clearly referring to the whole body in the context. All the members of the body are equally vital to the growth of the whole, and each one must be nurtured and equipped to perform it’s individual function.
There are various disorders in the physical realm where one part of the body is deformed or does not grow properly. If one leg grows faster than the other, walking is impaired. If one eye is lazy, depth perception is hindered. If the brain grows faster than the skull, rare autism disorders can result. I know a man who lost an arm in an accident, and believe me, God designed us to function with both arms. Once I had gout in my big toes and realized just how important these two appendages are in terms of balance. My friends who are hearing impaired illustrate what a blessing two healthy ears are in terms of meaningful communication with others. The list could go on.
In this individualized world of compartmentalized lives and private households, we must get back to the biblical truth of genuine Christian community and fellowship. I know it goes against the grain of our cultural conditioning; but the truth is the truth. You cannot live in a cozy little cubicle with Jesus, isolated and independent from other believers– whom you need and who need you– and grow up in all aspects into Christ. Growth can be messy, and it takes work. But it is worth it.
Like I always say, the Christian life is a battle. You get out of it what you put into it. No pain no gain.