13,14 "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Corinthians 16:13,14 (NASB)
The apostle Paul is not singling out the men in this verse. The phrase “act like men” refers to being mature, as opposed to childish. It parallels Paul's challenge earlier in his Corinthian letter to not be children in their thinking, but to be mature.
A significant difference between immaturity and maturity is whether or not we shoulder responsibility. Living with the consequences of how we handle responsibilities moves us toward maturity.
An NFL rookie tells his story of arriving at the airport late for a flight to an away game. He was relieved to see the plane with the steps still in place. As he hustled across the tarmac he could see the head coach look out his window, glance at his watch, look back to the player and then signal the attendant to close the door. The plane taxied away with the player standing alone with his bag on the tarmac.
A mean-spirited coach? It cost this rookie a commercial flight ticket and a hefty team fine, but he never missed another meeting or flight in his NFL career.
Gifted athletes are often living in a system that robs them of opportunities to grow toward maturity. To make sure athletes are available on gameday, administrators have taken over the responsibility of their schedules, alarm clocks, study habits, workout times, decisions … effectively removing potential consequences of their actions or inactions.
Paul is pushing for maturity in our spiritual lives.
Shouldering the responsibility for our own spiritual growth is a big step toward maturity. It helps us pursue God. It doesn’t wait for others to set the pace. It protects our daily personal time with Jesus. God is the One who causes growth, but not without our engagement.
It is not an easy task to apply this verse — Paul offers some perspective in tomorrow's entry.