Thursday, April 25, 2013

You can't microwave maturity

I hear Andy Arscott - with decades behind him say that. And it hurts. It hurts to young activist people. (I might be nearly 34 and old in my student context but really I think I'm fairly young.) Young activists aka evangelicals. Yes us. I want it. I want it now. I want things to be black and white. Clear cut. And happening, now.

And it doesn't always work like that.

Yet as Paul writes to his protege Timothy (I'm riffing here on 2 Timothy 2) he doesn't indulge my urgency. He speaks to his spiritual son and calls for him to reflect on things and trust that the LORD will give him understanding.

You can't rush REFLECTION. Look in the mirror quickly, walk away and you forget what you look like.

As GK Beale observes Paul's letter is wisdom literature. It alludes to Proverbs. Father to son, entrusting yourself to the LORD that he may give the grace of understanding. There are images to chew on - with fairly obvious messages about endurance followed by reigning.... but it'll take divine-understanding not just Tim-understanding to know things.

Reflect on the pattern of life which is endurance followed by reigning, dying followed by living, a dark Friday afternoon followed by the brightness of Sunday morning. The Christian life isn't always suffering but when it is don't forget that there is harvest for the farmer after the early mornings. And when the Christian life feels more of a breeze, don't forget that there's hard training and endurance before the champion crosses the finish line.

Some things aren't absolute.
I mean some things really are, but not every thing.

Gamaliel, Paul's teacher, said that you wont stop Christianity if it's from God.
Does that mean anything that flourishes is from God?
Islam and Mormonism are doing well...
No, what's true will last - but discernment isn't that easy.
Very little is that easy.

It takes wisdom.

The waking hours in the middle of the night going round and round an idea. Brick walls that don't come down with the first, second or third hit. The kind of things that live with you for months not just moments.

Things are chewy to work out not always neat and obvious.

Questions don't make everything fall apart.

Jesus grew in wisdom. Chew on that...

Wisdom is chewy.
Wisdom is slow-cooker.

It'll get there in the end if you stick with it.
It'll flourish like a relationship does given time, like your grandparents marriage...  because wisdom is relational.

Stay faithful to wisdom rather than faithless with folly and the result is beautiful and fruitful. Incomparable.

And Paul says: Timothy don't get into every theological fist fight.

Don't quarrel like the quarrellers. Don't get down on Korah's level. Just be kind and patient and gentle as to correctly people, as you teach the gospel word rightly.

Perhaps, says Paul, the LORD will grant people repentance.


Where's the Pauline confidence? Where's the Paul who proved and persuaded and reasoned people to belief in Jesus with water tight arguments. He's still there! He's still doing it. But not everyone believed him. Not everyone was happy with him. Not every good start ended well. There are fights worth having and fights not worth having. There are moments to draw back and moments to get in there.

How do you know which one you're in? It'll take wisdom.

Example. When people say - they've got it all today, don't forget that they don't. Timothy, respond to over-realised eschatology not by pinning people to the wall but by enduring your path of suffering. You're not there yet. I'm not there yet. Just walking through the wilderness for what feels like forty years. Rest awaits. But, you can't microwave maturity. The energy of youth is great but it needs to be directed by the grey-haired and the balding.... by the scarred and the steady... by the bruised and still believing.

As Paul writes 2 Timothy 2 it feels like sage wisdom, the activist evangelist in reflective mode.

We need that. Life takes time.

Timothy will be somewhere tomorrow and he can be further on and further up in the days after that. "Don't let them look down on you for your youth..." but don't indulge "youthful passions" and don't pick every fight.

The opposite of quarrelling is gentleness. Quiet confidence. Endure suffering and teach the word.  Be inky. Be kind. Be both. And do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Ad infinitum.

Over to you...


  1. Thank you Dave! Reflection is essential.

  2. This is gold. Thank you for writing this :)

  3. love this...'questions don't make the world fall apart' ... so true..Also love the whole 'The energy of youth is great but it needs to be directed by the grey-haired and the balding.... by the scarred and the steady... by the bruised and still believing.'...