Ephesians 3:14b talks about growing into “maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” This bible verse has come related to multiple situations this week. I’ve been thinking about maturity a lot, and our call as Christians to mature more and more.
One spectrum of maturity is moving from “rights” to “responsibilities.” When we are immature, we only think about our own rights, and as we mature, we move along the spectrum more and more so that we make decisions based on our own responsibilities, not our own rights.
Today is a bittersweet day for me. Our own Lizzie McManus-Dail is being ordained to the priesthood later today. Shortly after I record this, I will be on the phone with Lizzie, calling down The Spirit from afar and praying for her as she prepared for her ordination. As her sponsoring rector, I have a right to be there with her, to lay my hands on her as she’s ordained, to bring the prayers and good wishes from our congregation into her celebration. And wow, do I want to claim my right!
But we continue to live in an age of pandemic.
As a mature Christian, my responsibility to love my neighbor overshadows my right to be present at Lizzie’s ordination. As of today, the New York Times still reports Durham County at a Very High Level for COVID and Travis County, TX where Lizzie lives, is at a High Level for COVID. I don’t like it at all, but as a mature Christian I will not be laying hands on Lizzie today as she becomes a priest.
And this maturity scale of rights to responsibilities isn’t just true for particular choices, or for individuals. It is also true for whole societies. How mature a society is can be gauged by how much their behavior and laws focus on “rights” and how much they focus on “responsibilities.”
I am undone about how immature our society has become. Our demand for gun rights completely overshadows any responsibility to care for our neighbors. After a quiet first year in the pandemic, mass shootings have skyrocketed. Eleven this year, including three separate shootings in Indianapolis. Lord have mercy! A thirteen year old died this week because a police officer used a gun instead of a taser. Lord have mercy! We as a country are obsessed with our own individual rights which is overshadowing any responsibility to our neighbors. Lord have mercy!
Many times a day, you have choices to act with more maturity (out of love for your neighbor) or with less maturity (focusing on your own rights). Most of us at St. Luke’s make most of our decisions leaning into the maturity side of this equation. As Christians growing into the full stature of Christ, I’m realizing it is not enough for us to only mature as individuals. It is also our responsibility, as maturing Christians, to actively work towards helping our society make mature decisions.
I invite you to look at your own sphere of influence to see how you can encourage mature decision making. This can range from connecting with legislators to change gun laws all the way down to your family making decisions about summer travel.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. Thank God it is not all on our shoulders — Jesus is yoked to us, and all who are committed to maturity and health are working on this too. Maturity is not just an individual quality. We must take our responsibilities to our neighbors and city and state and nation seriously, and give our energy to helping them make more and more responsible laws, decisions and actions.
Please pray with me for Lizzie today. If you’d like to join the service at 3pm on Saturday April 17th, you can watch the livestream of the service on her church’s Facebook page, Church of the Cross, Episcopal.