Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Twin Towers of Discernment and Maturity

I hardly noticed the dampened tones gently blowing in the distance as I laid in bed sleeping one peaceful night.  The noise barely roused me from my slumber and I was already drifting back off to sleep when my wife Rae suddenly sat up in bed.  "Isn't it just a train?", I asked trying to find out what was the matter.  "Yes", she replied slightly confused at my query as the train gently blew its horns again, "but that's not what woke me.  I heard Peter patting his feet in his bed".

"You heard WHAT?", I heard myself saying in the back of my mind before I finally realized what she was talking about.  All I had heard was the train, yet my wife woke to our three month old baby quietly moving in the corner of our room. 

Now even more aroused, I thought about what had just transpired.  I had indeed heard all of the same sounds as she did, but my hearing gravitated to what had been created by the more obvious train and completely disregarded everything else.  Hers, on the other hand, had latched on to the quietly waking baby beside us.  In fact, it wasn't even the train that woke her.  Remove the train from the picture and I would have slept soundly through the entire ordeal while she would have still woken immediately to our young child's soft movements indicating his impending hunger.  I had only heard what was most prominent, while she discerned immediately and then acted on what had been most important.

As I reflected on this even more I realized that this is a vivid picture of what we find in Hebrews 5:11-14
    [11] About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, [13] for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (ESV)
Notice the two types of people that are being contrasted here:  the child and the mature person.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being a child if that is the present and reasonable stage of an individuals spiritual development.  However, what the writer of Hebrews is saying is that growth was expected, yet it just had not occurred.  The child-like state is supposed to be a temporary condition, but for this particular group it was not.

Notice more specifically the contrasts:

The child:
  1. is dull of hearing (v11)
  2. requires repeat basic instruction (v12)
  3. lives on milk (v12)
  4. is unskilled in the word (v13)
The mature person:
  1. possesses discernment (v14)
  2. consistently acts in accordance with their training (v14)
  3. handles solid food (v14)
  4. distinguishes good from evil (v14)
Remember, the writer of Hebrews is admonishing his audience that they should have already gone on to greater maturity, yet they had remained as spiritual infants.  It is the normal expected outcome for a spiritually healthy person to grow up in the faith just as it is the normal expected outcome for a healthy child to grow into adulthood.  My wife was able to easily discern the facts of our situation and then quickly act upon them to meet the needs of our infant son.  In the same vein, the redeemed of the Lord ought to also experience sufficient and substantive growth in due time so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-16, verse 14 cited)

We err when we think that we are either more mature than we really are or that we no longer need to keep on growing.  In the former instance we are being undiscerning while in in the latter we are being immature.  If one is present the other is sure to not be far behind.  The way of wisdom lies in asking God for an understanding mind that we may be able to rightly divide the word of truth and then go forth and live in the light of that truth as mature followers of Christ for his glory.