As a school teacher in the past, June and December have always been important to me as times of rest and reflection. They served as fallow periods, as time for me to consider where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, as well as to pray and consider where God is calling me to grow in next.
Growth is important to everyone, and even more important for Christians, who are called to grow to become more and more like Christ. But what does growth look like? 2 Peter 1:5-8 tells us that growth in Christ means adding to faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. All of that sounds great, but it doesn’t really help us in terms of our own concrete steps. Of the entire list, the only one that we are very clear how to grow in is knowledge – for that, we can read books and go for classes. But how do we grow in the rest?
The thing is, it’s really hard to grow in goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love on our own. If we are alone, goodness is never demonstrated, there is much less need for self-control and perseverance, godliness cannot be demonstrated, there is no one to have mutual affection with, and definitely no one to love. This means that for us ultimately to grow in Christlikeness, we must be in community, and not just be a superficial part of a community coming to church every Sunday without knowing anyone but get ourselves they integrated into the weave of the community as well as the messiness of it all. That means rolling up your sleeves and joining in the work that is being done – that is showing love to others. That means not giving up on the work when it gets difficult – that is perseverance. That means looking out for who needs help and giving that help instead of standing to one side and pointing out the errors – that is mutual affection, self-control, and goodness. That means pointing each other to Christ as you work together through your disappointments and joys – that is godliness.
It doesn’t sound like a bed of roses does it? But growth is never easy, it is often painful. If we understand physical growth to be difficult, then we should also understand that spiritual growth is no less difficult, and in fact all the more difficult for not being immediately tangible. But it is worth it, and more than worth it, because at the final judgement we will see Christ greet us with a smile, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And so: what steps towards growth will you consider committing yourself to this June? Will you join us in community, messiness and all?