“Emotionally Healthy Church” – Growing into a Community with Emotionally Mature Adults
Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
In our last instalment of our “Emotionally Healthy Church” series we are challenged to continue the journey towards becoming a community of emotionally healthy people.
Questions for reflection or small groups
Today, as the last sermon of ‘Emotionally Healthy Church’ series, we explore how we can grow into ‘emotionally mature adults’.
Loving well is the goal of the Christian life. This is easier in our dreams than in practice. It requires that we grow into emotional adulthood in Christ.
Jessica is a committed Christian in her relationship with Jesus Christ. She practices spiritual disciplines. However, her commitment to Jesus Christ does not include relating to people in an emotionally mature way.
We learn many skills to be competent in our careers and at school. However, we don’t learn the skills necessary to grow into an emotionally mature adult who loves well. Part of growing into an emotionally mature Christian is learning how to apply practically and effectively the truths we believe. We can find many Jessicas who is committed to Christian, but not an emotionally mature adult.
Jesus preached great messages to the multitudes. Yet he knew that would not be enough for people to truly understand. So he chose twelve disciples with whom he lived day and night for three years. He modeled how his teaching worked out practically. He had them practice. He supervised.
We need practical skills incorporated into their spiritual formation to grow out of emotional infancy into emotional adulthood. It is easy to grow physically into a chronological adult. It is quite another to grow into an emotional adult.
Stage of Emotional infants to adult
Emotional adult – Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others.
Emotionally mature Christian adults recognize that loving well is the essence of true spirituality. This requires that we experience connection with God, connection with ourselves, and with other people. God invites us to practice his presence in our daily lives. At the same time, he invites us to practice the presence of people in our daily relationships.
Jesus saw every person he met as someone new who never existed before, something original and unique. In fact, this ability to pay attention and really listen to people was at the very heart of his mission.
On the other hand, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the “church leaders” of that time, never made the connection. They were diligent and absolutely committed to having God as Lord of their lives. They memorized the entire books of the first five books of the Bible. They prayed five times a day. But they never delighted in people. They did not link loving God with the need to be diligent and committed to growing in their ability to love people. For this reason they criticized Jesus repeatedly for being a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Jesus refused to separate the practice of the presence of God from the practice of the presence of people.
At our wedding, Australian version wedding, there were two separate candles representing our separate lives. We lit a third Christ candle together with those two candles, symbolizing we were now one in Christ. “We are one”, we proclaimed to our family and friends. The question we didn’t answer was: “Which one?” For a long time of our marriage, I unconsciously answered that question with: “Yes, Inae and I are one, and I am the one!” To grow spiritually, we need to perceive ourselves in relation to others.
In 1923, the great Jewish theologian Martin Buber wrote a famous book, “I and Thou”. Buber described the most healthy or mature relationship possible between two human beings as an “I-Thou” relationship. In such a relationship, I recognize that I am made in the image of God and so is every other person on the face of the earth. Every person deserves respect. I need to treat them with dignity and worth.
Circle illustrations: S Two different world
Buber argues that in most of our human relationships we lose sight of others as separate from us. We treat people as objects, as an “It”. The result of I-It relationship is that I get frustrated when people don’t fit into my plans. The way I see things if right.
Recognizing the uniqueness and separateness of every other person on earth is so significant to emotional maturity. We so easily demand that people view the world the way we do.
Buber said, true relationships can only exist between two people willing to connect across their differences. God fills that in-between space of an I-Thou relationship. God not only can be glimpsed in genuine dialogue but penetrates their in-between space.
When we love someone well as emotional adults, when treating them as a Thou, not an It, it is such a powerful experience. When genuine love is released in a relationship, God’s presence is manifest. The separate space between us becomes sacred space.
The “I-Thou” in our relationship leads to another aspect of emotional maturity. It informs our capacity to resolve conflicts maturely and negotiate solutions as we consider other people’s perspectives.
A tragically misinterpreted verse in the New Testament is Jesus’ proclamation: “Blesses are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). Most people think that Jesus calls us in this verse to be pacifiers who ensure that nobody gets upset. We may think we are to keep the peace, ignoring difficult issues and problems, making use things remain stable. Out of fear when we avoid conflict, we are false peacemakers:
For example, Maria loves her parents. They are both quite critical about how MAria raises her children. Each holiday is filled with tension. Maris does not say anything because she does not want to hurt their feelings. She is a false peacemaker.
Conflict and trouble were central to the mission of Jesus. He taught that true peacemaking disrupts false peace even in the families.
Why? You can’t have the true peace of Christ’s kingdom with lies. They must be exposed to the light and replaced with the truth.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our world is to be a community of emotionally healthy adults who love well. This will take the power of God and a commitment to learn, grow, and break with unhealthy, destructive patterns.
I hope and pray that we all can grow into an emotionally healthy adults as we think of others, as we perceive the presence of God and others and we practice I thou relationship and become a true peacemaker.
Phil and I pray this series has been something you found helpful to deepen your spirituality and challenged us to reflect upon ‘emotional’ issues. May God bless us as we build an emotionally healthy church together. Amen.