In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul states, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Paul describes his transition into maturity from childish reasoning into manhood. While Jesus would use children as a positive picture of humility and innocence (Mat. 18:1-4), Paul uses them to describe a state of immaturity and weakness. No sane person wishes to remain a child; all of us hope to grow and mature both physically and mentally. The implication Paul makes is that there are times when we fail to act like adults, and our reasoning is far from the level it needs to be spiritually. What are some ways we reason like children?
Testing the boundaries. Sometimes, in order to annoy their siblings, a child will get as close as they possibly can to touching another without actually making contact. Whenever their brother/sister complains about their action they quickly reply, “I’m NOT touching you!” Technically they are correct–but they missed the spirit of the issue. Like children, we sometimes like to get as close as we possibly can to sin without “making contact.” When a more mature brother/sister comes along and warns/rebukes us for such we get defensive, “I’m not doing that!” we respond. Yet, the mature Christian knows when to avoid something, even if it isn’t explicitly laid out in scripture. When we are thinking with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and are committed to giving the flesh no opportunity (Rom. 13:14) we will learn how to maturely discern these issues.
Being Reactionary. If you’re a parent, you know one of the most oft used excuses for a child’s actions (sometimes physical) against a sibling: “They started it!” Instead of stopping to think about how to best respond to aggression, children will respond in kind; they are reactionary. Sadly, so many Christians respond in the same way. Instead of taking a few moments to stop and consider our response, we lash out, wanting that person to feel the same pain. In contrast to this, Peter reminds us that the mature mindset follows the example of Jesus and forgoes reviling in return (1 Pet. 2:23).
Easily Offended. I’m constantly surprised (and a little amused) at the variety of things which so easily offend children. “They hurt my feelings!” is a complaint we often hear in our household. Children are thin skinned. They haven’t developed the maturity to realize not every criticism is worth getting upset about. They also don’t understand the concept of constructive criticism; how friends sometimes must speak difficult truths to you (Prov. 27:6). As adults we sometimes forget this as well. We allow ourselves to be easily offended when our needs aren’t met or when someone says an unkind word. The mature mind chooses to forgive and bear with brethren; it recognizes that people can say silly things even when they don’t intend it. It doesn’t sweep things under the rug, but it also isn’t easily offended or upset.
Let us then grow up into the grace of Christ and be mature in our thinking, refusing to fall into the snare of childish reasoning.