We all want growth in our lives, to live as overcomers. Growth always begins with understanding where you are at and where you want to go. So we want to consider some sonship markers for christian maturity.
Healthy/Unhealthy Family Characteristics
There was an interesting study of how families with addictions interact with each other and they discovered that they all had certain characteristics in common.
What’s more interesting is the study found that any family with a level of dysfunction had these same characteristics. This includes families that struggle with any kind of abuse (verbal-emotional, physical, sexual), chronic fears, extreme obesity, etc. These characteristics were defined by specific interactions between family members.
As there are a set of definable characteristics or interactions that all unhealthy families have, likewise, there are also a set of definable characteristics or interactions that all healthy families have.
Not Black or White
The idea here is not that any family is either perfectly healthy or dysfunctional, but rather everyone is somewhere along the spectrum. I like to define the interactions of unhealthy families versus healthy families as “Shame Interactions” versus “Love Interactions.”
Sonship Markers for Christian Maturity – Shame Interactions
- Judgements – everything is weighed in the balance and often found wanting (Dan.5:27). This can be anything from the way a teenager wears his hair to how he dries the dishes to his grades in school. There’s no gray area. Expressing a “wrong” viewpoint can get you “the look” or even worse, a backhand. Family conversations are full of judgments about all the ways other people do things “wrong.” Acceptance is in short supply and it is not a safe environment.
- Hiding – people get secretive because it’s not safe, because any wrong move can bring judgement. Denial and putting on a mask of appearing successful are survival techniques. “Don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel” become necessary tools to put walls around the heart for protection.
- Disconnects – heart-to-heart connection is rare. It’s not safe. People are not allowed to have problems without being judged, so therefore solutions aren’t found and comfort is not given. And when there is no comfort, counterfeit affections are sought.
Sonship Markers for Christian Maturity – Love Interactions
- Love Expressed – believing the best in everyone (1 Cor.13:7). Love means “seeing into” the hearts of others. Not just assuming wrong motives or immediately moving to judgment, but looking for underlying hurts or misunderstandings so that true heart-to-heart connection can be made.
- Safety – because people feel safe and valued by love they live more transparently and open-hearted. They understand that everyone has problems at times and that it’s okay to have them. Problems don’t reflect a flawed identity. They don’t have to hide.
- Overcoming – through family support and dialogue, prayer and faith, problems are overcome. A “can-do” attitude about life is produced and comfort is given when failings occur.
I see these Love Interactions as markers for Christian maturity. The idea of understanding these characteristics is not to feel condemned but to better understand where we are at in growing in God’s love. Armed with this knowledge we are better equipped to grow.
When I felt like I didn’t measure up, even with all the fasting, prayer, and Bible reading I used to do, I lived in condemnation and discouragement. As I grew in God’s love, I realized it wasn’t about all the things I could “do,” but that He loved me simply because I was His child. My growth began to skyrocket simply by knowing I was loved and safe.
In closing, these sonship markers for Christian maturity are very practical indicators of how much I really believe I’m a new creature in Christ Jesus, walking out His love. Am I daily walking in shame interactions, or love interactions?
1 John 4:7, 8 – Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.