This is not Commutativity
(It’s about growth and development)
In the book of Corinthians, Paul talks about the characteristics of Love [Charity]. He says that love is patient, is kind, does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud, does not fail and the list goes on (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Paul makes it clear that love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is no coincidence that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus to come and die for our sins out of Love (John 3:16). This article is about what one must do to attain that love that comes from God.
You see, in life, development is all about growing to maturity and in Christian development, love is that point of maturity. In life, we know the stages through which one goes through to get to maturity – from conception to birth to adolescence and finally to adulthood. We also know that age does not equal maturity and thus we often hear statements such as these “grow a bit”, “he is still a child”, etc. to people who behave in childish manner. The same thing applies to Christian life – the number of years you spent in church since you were converted does not make you a mature Christian.
Apostle Peter outlines the stages one must go through to reach that point of maturity – LOVE. He says
“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness [virtue], and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control [temperance]; and to self-control, perseverance [patience]; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection [brotherly kindness]; and to mutual affection LOVE [charity]”, [2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV]
There you have it. You should know that faith is the fundamental element of Christian growth and without it no one can be saved. Once you receive Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, faith is given to you automatically and this faith is basic and can only be built upon by listening to the Word of God [Romans 10:17]. That is why it is such a pity that so many Christians these days don’t go to church to listen to the Word of God. They claim not going to church does not make then non-Christian – but they forgot that the Bible commands us not to forget the assembling of the saints [Hebrews 10:25]. It should be noted that this faith is different from the one mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:9 [this is an advanced level of faith].
Basically, there are seven major stages to get to stage LOVE as indicated in the Bible verse. Peter talks about addition – he says “add to …”. This addition is not the one you know in Maths, where 1 + 2 and 2 + 1 yields the same result – this concept is what is known as commutative property or commutativity. Bible is talking about an incremental Maths. What it means is that, the addition must be systematic. Just like you can’t jump from Class 1 to University straight away, you can’t just from stage faith to stage love. To get to stage Love, your faith must first lead you to develop virtue; then from virtue you develop knowledge by daily studying the Word of God. Knowledge will help you get self-control. If you don’t have self-control, there is no way; you can learn to be a patient person in the LORD. When you are patient, you learn to be godly and out of godliness come mutual affection. With mutual affection [brotherly kindness] you can easily reach the zenith of your Christian development stage, which is Love.
It should be pointed out that when you reach stage LOVE, all the other characteristics still remain with you. Paul refers to those at stage FAITH as babes in Christ. That is why he refers to the newly converted Christians in Corinth as babes [1 Cor. 3:1]. Those at this stage are carnal and are troubled with envying, strife, divisions, etc. [1 Cor. 3:3, 4]. But, Peter says that the only way we can move out of that level is by sincerely desiring the Word of God [1 Pet. 2:2].
In conclusion, there are seven stages one must go through to get to LOVE as indicated in 2 Pet. 1:5-7: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, and mutual affection. When you are able to develop all these characteristics in God, you become a complete Christian with purpose. I hope that knowing this will help you this year in your Christian development. It is also my hope that this particular verse remain your main scripture reference for this year.
May the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guide and keep your hearts!