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What is Christian maturity?

That’s the question a seminary professor I once had posed to our class.

We sat in silence for a moment before one brave soul raised his hand.

“Maturity is knowing how to navigate the gray,” he said.

That may have been the most profound thing I learned all semester.

What he meant was there are a lot of gray issues in life – issues over which honest, intelligent Christians disagree.

Maturity is learning how to navigate those issues as Jesus would have us navigate them – with wisdom and love and respect.

However, I would make more explicit what I believe my classmate intended to imply in his definition.

Maturity is knowing how to navigate the gray and how to discern the black and white from the gray.

Maturity is standing firm on the black and white and embracing freedom in the gray.

We tend, though, to either see the world as entirely black and white or as entirely gray.

The former is dogmatism. The latter is relativism.

Dogmatism, as the lens through which we see the world, leaves no room for honest debate or agreeable disagreement. It assumes than anyone with a dissenting view is ignorant or, perhaps, even malicious. Dogmatism, more often than not, is based on personal opinion, rather than objective truth. For example, there are Christians dogmatic about how they believe God created the universe. The black and white of Scripture is that God created the universe. The how is gray. But, dogmatism is uncomfortable with gray and so tries to convert gray issues into black and white ones.

Relativism, on the other hand, leaves no room for conviction. If everything is gray, then right and wrong is wholly determined by the individual. That simply doesn’t align with reality. It breaks down with the slightest push. For example, if I stole your wallet you would protest that what I did was wrong. But, if you’re a good relativist, you’d have to admit that, though you’d prefer I not steal your wallet, I didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe I believe stealing to be right. It’s all relative. It’s all gray.

Here’s the point.

There is truth. There is right and wrong. There is black and white.

But not everything is black and white. God has given us enormous freedom within the confines of His objective reality.

Christian maturity is learning which is which and living accordingly. Christian maturity is learning how to navigate every issue in such a way that we represent and reflect the heart and character of Christ.

As Augustine once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

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