“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Cor. 13:11). “Paul does not mean simply that childish ways passed away with the passing of time. His choice of verb indicates a determination on his part that he would not be ruled by childish ways” (Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians, p. 183).
Not all are so inclined. Some would prefer to extend their childhood, rather than embrace the obligations that derive from being an adult. For instance, a certain youth married and his wife gave birth to two children. Nonetheless, he was reluctant to assume responsibility for their welfare. Consequently, he deliberately reduced his work schedule, so as to free up time for his personal interests. When his wife continued to criticize him for neglect, this led to a divorce. Subsequently, he remarried but still retained his immature ways.
Rites of passage play an important role in a person attaining an adult mind set. In this regard, I inquired of one of my Nigerian students what he thought was the most pressing issue to be addressed by Christians in his cultural setting. Whereupon, he identified the rites of passage, since they were formerly associated with pagan beliefs, and were no longer suitable for Christian converts. But lacking such, the social structure suffered.
Moreover, it seems that our emerging culture no longer has the effective rites of passage it once benefitted from. As conditioned by extended education, a prolonged period before marriage, ethical malaise, and interim efforts to manage during such uncertain times.
Conversely, my engagement in the military for all practical purposes served as an effective rite of passage. I left for service the day after my 18th birthday, during World War II. I would visit my parents on occasion thereafter, but was largely on my own. As with the apostle, when I was a child, I functioned as a child. But upon becoming an adult, I assumed the role of an adult.
The issue for most is not so easily resolved. As I was reminded with a recent post by Connie Sullivan Miller: “My 20 year old granddaughter keeps telling me she is an adult when I disagree with her on anything. She is going to college on 100 % scholarships, works when she can and pays her car insurance. Other than that her parents still pay her health insurance, feed and clothe her, pay her doctor and medical bills and pays for her cell phone bill. To me, she is not yet an adult.”
Her comments solicit several observations. (1) A critical feature of being an adult is determining one’s own course of action. Preferably with the help of capable mentors. If for no other reason, that most of what we think to be true is derived from others.
(2) Jesus uniquely qualifies as a faithful mentor. As for apt commentary, “Will great originality be born again, or will the world content itself henceforth by following the ways opened by the bold creators of the ancient ages? We know not. But whatever may be the unexpected phenomena of the future, Jesus will not be surpassed. His worship will constantly renew its youth; all the ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born who is greater than Jesus” (Ernest Renan, “Panegyric on Jesus,” Jesus: Great Lives Observed—Anderson, ed., p. 106).
(3) Meanwhile, the transition into being an adult has become increasingly blurred. In the above instance, the parents continue to pay for certain expenses, while their daughter bears part of the burden. Along with a generous scholarship program, although the details are lacking.
(4) Questions proliferate. As with the insistence that the public bear the expense for higher education. It goes without saying that taxation is legitimate for necessary services. However, beyond this, it runs the risk of being a form of corporate theft. It is a difficult call, and not something to be taken for granted.
(5) Preferences also surface. Qualifications aside, I think a good case can be made for educational compensation for those who have served in the military. If so, then there may be similar services that should be rewarded in this manner. However, it seems less persuasive to argue that the expense for higher education should be funded by the public, without compensation to society.
(6) In conclusion, the Pauline precedent is worthy of emulation. Once a child, it is proper to think and behave like a child; but once an adult, then in adult fashion. Then, if in doubt, do not expect others to do for you what you are unwilling to do for yourself. Since this serves as a subtle rite of passage.
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