When you were in elementary school did you ever pass, send, or receive a note that queried whether someone liked someone and included handy check boxes for yes or no? In those innocent days we already understood a few powerful truths. We wanted to be liked and we had very rudimentary concepts of courtship and commitment. If you ever sent one of those notes, you hoped it would come back positive but were unprepared for those occasions when a new box was added with an additional option like “maybe,” “as friends,” or “already taken.” But when the note returned with a yes, that was a good day. Of course, at that point you probably had no idea what to do. I know I didn’t. The so-called romantic protocols of first or second grade usually meant giving up your turn at the swing, or slide to the girl you were in “like” with at recess. If you were very serious you might sit with her at lunch and even give her your dessert. But only if it wasn’t ice cream. It sure felt good to be in a committed “like” relationship, and it really didn’t come at too great a price. The “like” relationship was a safe, static, and non-serious one.

There was another form of commitment that was impressed upon me in those young years. The question was whether I had given my heart to Jesus or not. This is always a great question. The challenge back then was that I did not really understand commitment in any serious way. I am so glad that the need for a life-changing relationship with Christ was impressed on me early and often. I believe that it is one of the most important things I was ever taught. But lacking the conceptual framework for making devoted and decided commitments meant that my faithfulness was about as shallow as was my attention span. The good news is that God knows our limitations and His grace is more than able to compensate. However, our attentive adherence to the Christian faith must grow beyond the “Do you like me? Yes, or No?” phase. We must come to the place where we say to Christ that we love Him above all else and then make choices that demonstrate that reality. We must grow to love Him more than we love ourselves.

Sadly, I have known too many who have that school note checklist understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Commitments of convenience are not engaged sufficiently enough to redirect our choices in godly ways when we are stressed, tempted or angry. When we were young these variances in temperament and behavior were due to immaturity and the need to become more disciplined. Growing up means not only that our bodies have grown, but also that we have shed a significant measure of immaturity and that we have learned to be disciplined and in control of our choices. At whichever age we accept Christ’s offer of cleansing from sin and everlasting life, we will have much to learn and many illusions and delusions to shed. We will have to grow spiritually so that we are ever-maturing and increasingly disciplined about living as God desires us to live.

Childhood is meant to be a period of training in a setting wherein it is safe to falter so that we can live, learn, and grow from the lesson. As children, we know that we want to be loved even though we may not fully understand what love really is. Children go from simple understanding to complex knowledge. Becoming a Christian is similar in that we need God’s love and forgiveness, but regardless of the age we become Christians, we do not yet know how to truly love or forgive. God has supplied several aids to our growth and to increase our abilities. Jesus offers the grace of God through His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is given to lead, guide, and correct the believer as they journey toward maturity in faith. The Bible, God’s Word, is given to teach us all things necessary for life and godliness. The Church, the community of God’s gathered people, exists to provide us with a community of people who are living and learning at various levels so that we are surrounded by both encouragement and helpful correction. But if we do not avail ourselves of these aids we will not mature, nor develop discipline. We will stay in a “like” relationship with God, but in this case, it is not safe because we are not supposed to be static since it will lead to stagnation because we’ve treated the most serious relationship in our life as though it were a casual matter of convenience. Some may like the cavalier nature of the “like” relationship, but in doing so they forget that in life that which does not grow does not live long. Everlasting life comes from a relationship in which we love Christ above all else. The choice is up to you.

Contact Pastor Lamb at icumc@yahoo.com.