Knowledge, spiritual gifting, discernment, understanding, revelation?
I believe these are the qualities that have been held up as the standards of maturity in our churches.
What would change in our lives, our communities, and our churches if love was held up as the highest measure of maturity, the standard of growth and success?
Coming from the charismatic realm, growth in revelation and spiritual gifting was important. I'm not saying these things aren't important, but if they take a back seat to love, they're nothing.
Sitting behind us in church yesterday was a couple from our former church. They are struggling with the fact that a family was recently excommunicated from their church. The husband in this family is being set up as an example of those who deserve to be removed, those who interfere with community.
I wondered about the family sitting behind us, knowing that they would be dealing with the idea that this church is beneath their level of spiritual maturity. I can't tell you how often I've heard the phrase, "But they don't believe in the gifts."
What if spiritual gifts aren't the truest measure of maturity in the kingdom?
In the blogosphere I've seen another example of this with the heresy hunters. The standard that they live by is "absolute truth." But what good is contending for the truth without love. I'm not saying that biblical knowledge and understanding aren't important, but if they take a back seat to love, they're worthless.
As the heresy hunters diligently strive to protect the world from false teaching and error, is it possible that they have slipped into greater error? So often I sense in their writing a fear of including someone undeserving in fellowship, someone who hasn't measured up to the mark. What if a greater mistake would be excluding someone that God wants us to love?
What if correct doctrine isn't the truest measure of maturity in the kingdom?
Today, I am brought back to the statement from Corinthians:
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." I Corinthians 13:2
So, who is mature?
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:13