Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church is a very good book. This particular paragraph in the Introduction caught my attention:
The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.
He argues that emotional health and spiritual maturity are a large, unexplored area of discipleship. What we have done instead is to give emotional issues to the therapist while the church takes care of the “spiritual” issues. These, as Scazzero argues, are actually linked and are a part of a fully biblical discipleship.
Discipleship not only engages my mind and emotions but my body as well. Rodney Clapp, in his book Tortured Wonders, makes the case for Christ-following that involves the whole person, including the body.
Why is this important? It is important because Jesus has called us to a life of surrender, dependency on him, and service.
This is also important because separating the emotional/relational self (or even the body) from the “spiritual” has created some troubling and even bizarre situations among Christians.
The following are examples of such troubling situations. (Some of these are Sazzero’s and some are mine.)
The man who has taught for years in adult Bible classes and yet his adult children resent him and his wife smolders with anger over years of neglect.
The woman who volunteers for most everything at church while neglecting her health thinking that she is doing what God wants.
The church leader who can never say “I was wrong” or “I don’t know what to do.”
The high control kind of person who has a way of wearing people out as he persists in trying to get others to share his opinions.
The ministry leader who sees any difference of opinion as a personal attack.
The man or woman who continues pushing people away and at the same time can’t understand why he/she doesn’t have friends.
Following Jesus (or growing spiritually) means that my entire life, heart, mind, emotions, and body come under his Lordship. Unfortunately, many of us are ready to give our “spiritual” selves to Jesus while we hold back emotionally or in other areas. Jesus is very clear. He wants the whole self.
What happens to a person when they remain emotionally immature even though they have been Christians for a decade or more? What kind of inconsistencies begin to emerge from one’s life?