Toward Becoming A Father or Mother in the Faith

What are some markers of a mother or father in the faith?
I take note of John’s descriptions of three generations of believers in his first epistle:

“I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.”                                                                                     
(1 John2:12-13 NIV).

I note that the spiritual children are marked by forgiveness, the young men are marked by aggressive activity (overcoming the enemy), and the elders are marked by a relational knowing.  An aspect of maturity is moving deeper into communion with God and others which will mandate less activity. 

Eugene Peterson taught me (in his many books) that shepherding work is not efficient work. Relationships, spiritual transformation, emotional maturation, and even organizational development is not about efficiency. It is about relationships and, boy, are relationships messy. Nurturing such organisms take enormous swaths of time. I know that you know this. Ah, the tensions of life….

What catches my attention from this brief passage in John, taken with the context of the book, is that the later stage of maturity is not marked by greater activity but rather deeper knowing – particularly of “him who is from the beginning.”

How does one go through such a transition from a stage of life marked by “overcoming the enemy” to one that is marked by “knowing him who is from the beginning?” I presume we are led through such a transition. I have no hope that I would find this Way on my own.

1 John 2:13b-14 is very similar, yet has some variances to it:

“I write to you, children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God abides in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.”

Forgivness for the children brings them into an adoptive relationship with God as Father. The young men (and women) are still out there overcoming, but we now see the source of their strength – the Word of God abides in them.IMG_2170

A Relational Influence
The Father’s ( and spiritual mothers) however are steady. No varying with them. Their life in the church, in the community, and in global impact – their very identity – is not marked by what they do for God, but that same relational knowing.

As I think of the elders in the faith, those spiritual mothers and fathers, that I have had the gift of getting to know, what strikes me about their life is not how much they get done but rather a presence, a weightiness of soul, a spiritual depth.

Where are you, not in age, but experientially in your walk with God?

  • Do you experience yourself before God as an adopted child, forgiven and God as your Father?  This is the core of our identity.
  • Do you see yourself as giving your life to overcoming the enemy as an outworking of your abiding in God and his word abiding in you? This marks a large chunk of our lifetime.
  • Are you growing in your relational knowing? Experience God’s beckoning in deeper and further to your communion with him? Responsiveness to this invitation is essential for maturing as an elder of the faith.

Each is valid. Each spiritual generation makes up the family of God.

Yet I see and hear little in our society and culture beckoning us onward into deeper, relational knowing, let alone giving place for those who are aged and “less productive.” The Spirit through the Word and lives of others offers a contrary message. We are constantly invited deeper into knowing the Father in Jesus by the Spirit.

The church and the missional enterprise simply cannot have enough of those ones being matured into mothers and father in the faith.

How are you responding to these invitations? What has been your experience?

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4 Responses to Toward Becoming A Father or Mother in the Faith

  1. Linda Kirkeeide says:

    Thank you again Scott. So affirming of God’s Ways and empowering Presence! >


  2. Victoria Coyne says:

    Scott, thanks for your wise words. I find that in a world where there is such a pull to be active all of the time, the intentional, slower pace of a mature believer produces a constant tension. Putting relationships (with the Lord and others) above other activity/tasks seems like the thing we’re being called to do, but can feel counter cultural and perhaps, even counter intuitive these days. I’m grateful for the reminder that “slow and steady wins the race!” Blessings, Victoria


    • Scott S says:

      Victoria! So sweet to hear from you. Thank you for your reflections. It is not only counter-cultural to society, but also to the church at large. Slow and steady, eyes fixed on him whose gaze is fixed on each of us.
      Love to you S


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