Is Immaturity A Sin?
Sounds like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? But to read many conversations in online Christian boards and blogs, one would think it’s a serious fact.
The best way to neutralize a Christian’s witness is to play the
nice card and ask loaded questions. That is, you hit them with things like these:
Nobody is saved by doctrine
You don’t have to have a theology degree to be saved
Some of the nicest people I know are ______ (fill in the blank with the name of a religion)
The followers of _______ show more Christian love than most Christians
Think about those for a minute. In the first two, the statements are true on their face. But they err in their implications: that although technically you aren’t saved by doctrine, your faith must be doctrinally accurate or it is what the Bible calls
vain (1 Cor. 15:2) We are saved by faith because of the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9), but that faith must be in the Jesus who is God, who died for our sins, who rose again, and who will return for us. And nothing can be added or subtracted from that faith. That, whether anyone wants to call it this or not, is doctrine, and a necessary one in order to be saved.
In the second two, an appeal is made to external behavior. Now to be sure, any Christian who still wallows in sin and shows little love is either lost or immature, but this issue is irrelevant for judging salvation. What does the gospel itself say about behavior? If it’s truly salvation by faith alone it cannot depend upon even the willingness or determination to turn from sin (making it a
work of us instead of God), but only on faith in Jesus. We turn from sin after salvation because the Spirit within us convicts us; this is not true of unbelievers who of course do not have the Spirit. They can feel remorse, they can have a conscience, but such
turning will not save them, and it is not a prerequisite for saving faith. (You disagree? Show me the scriptures that tie remorse for sins with saving faith. The word
repent only means
turn the opposite way but doesn’t include what is being turned from; that comes from context, and all instances of charges to repent related to the topic of salvation are about changing one’s belief concerning Jesus.)
So this all amounts to using the immaturity or inconsistency of the believer as a way to keep them from pointing out the lack of saving faith in others. They do in fact call such immaturity a sin, and substitute right behavior for saving faith. They claim to be more Christ-like, flaunting their
humility and completely missing the irony therein. Does the Bible not still consider our best efforts at righteousness to be like disgusting rags (Isaiah 64:6)? Is salvation not still by faith alone? Of course there is a great lack of love today among believers, especially
clergy who should know better, but this does not change the fact that salvation is by faith, and if your
doctrine of the gospel is in error, you are lost. And don’t get me started again on what it means to be
loving, as if love never confronts evil or shows any concern about the lost.
Given a choice between the immature believer who shows little outward kindness yet spreads the true gospel, and the
holier than thou who refuses to discuss the necessary facts of salvation but only ever talks about community service and acts of kindness, I’ll respond with the same loaded question
they always use on us:
Which do you think God values more? (see Phil. 1:18). And we should not fall for their false dilemma between outward niceness and doctrine; the two are not in conflict. The kind person needs correct basic doctrine, and the doctrinal person needs kindness. But note that the second at least knows the gospel, while the first may not.
No, immaturity is not a sin, and outward kindness is not proof of salvation. The
nice person with no concern for the facts of the gospel is just as lost as the
mean person who knows the facts of the gospel but has never grasped the concept of the restored relationship which is the goal and purpose of that gospel. But none of this would be an issue if those of us who do know the gospel would practice it in all its implications (Gal. 5:21-23). Let’s stop giving fodder to those who would gag us.