Who is the most spiritually mature person that you know? Can you picture them in your mind? Now, why did you pick that person? What was the criteria for your selection?
In Luke 10:25-37 a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. It was not likely a genuine question as much as it was an attempt to trick Jesus into saying something foolish. But it is hard to trick the one who made the Heavens and the earth. So Jesus responds by asking the lawyer how he understands what the law says. The lawyer, who apparently had a much deeper understanding of the Law than most, saw rightly that the Law could be summarised into one word - love. Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus commends the lawyer for his correct answer, to which the lawyer replies, in a smug manner to justify himself, "And, who is my neighbor?" He was asking because he likely felt that he was doing a great job loving those who were like him - those he found easy to love.
In response Jesus tells one of His most famous parables, the good Samaritan. In the parable a Jewish man leaving Jerusalem for Jericho is robbed, beaten and left half dead on the side of a road. A priest and then a Levite each saw their countryman hurt and dying, but instead of rushing to help him, they crossed over to the other side of the road, wanting to do as little as possible with him, afraid that they would get dirty. Then a Samaritan came and helped the man by bandaging up his wounds and taking him to an inn so he could heal, all paid for by the stranger.
What made this parable so striking was that Samaritans and Jews were enemies. Jews would look down upon Samaritans as being unclean and impure due to their intermarrying with non-Jews and how their forefathers worshipped pagan gods. Yet he was the one that sacrificed himself and loved the beaten and messy man.
Too often in our churches we measure maturity and godliness based on how much or how eloquently someone prays. By how well they know their Bible and are able to communicate deep spiritual truths. Or by how active they are in the church activities.
Yet, I believe the greatest test for someone's spiritual maturity is in how they love. Do they love only when it is convenient? Do they try and protect themselves as the priest and Levite did? Or do they, at their own personal cost and sacrifice, join others in their mess and care for and love them unconditionally, with no expected response in return?
If you are thinking, "No problem. I can do that." Then you don't understand the kind and depth of love that Jesus is speaking of. But if you are thinking, "Personal sacrifice, loving unconditionally, while it is not very hard for those who are easy to love, but it is so hard with the unlovable, the difficult people, those who are mean to me, those who are hurt and messy." then you properly understand the kind of love Jesus is talking about. Because it is a love that is not meant to come from us, but a love that is meant to flow through us.
John, who would have heard Jesus tell the parable of the good Samaritan, wrote; "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." (see 1 John 4:7-9)
You see, God is wanting to do through us what we cannot do on our own. Love with His love, even the messiest, most difficult person of us all. And the mature Christian is the one who knows that they cannot, but Christ in them can and does.
In Christ who is our Life,