For Mature Audiences Only
We use words like mature and adult to imply racy, graphic or potentially offensive content. The Bible uses the idea of maturity to mean something far different.
The tacky neon sign buzzes overhead, reminding you of its presence:
There it stands, projecting its message across a lonely stretch of highway. With one last glance at its flickering colors, you step forward as the store’s automatic doors glide open, inviting you in.
You could pretend you’ve never been here before, but the charade would be pointless. The cashier greets you by name as you walk inside. Around the room, you see familiar faces from your community intently browsing the store’s merchandise—neighbors, coworkers, even some fellow church members. Most of them are too embarrassed to make eye contact with you.
You used to be embarrassed too. But that feeling faded a while ago. You’ve been here so often, you know the place like the back of your hand—and after a moment or two of glancing around the shop, you stride purposefully to your destination and begin leafing through titles.
Your Guide to Successful 401(k) Investment. Nope, that’s not it. Parenting 101: Tips and Tricks. Hmm, not it either. You thought for sure—ah, there it is! A Beginner’s Guide to Wiring Your Home. You’ve been meaning to replace that ceiling fan forever, and now you can finally—
What’s that? What do you mean, “That isn’t how adult bookstores work?” What else could they be except bookstores where adults can go to find information on how to be a better grown-up?
Losing the meaning
Unfortunately, you and I both know that’s not what adult bookstores are. They’re marketplaces for smut—shamelessly lewd material that has no place in polite society. And we know all that because of one word in the name:
How embarrassing and shameful that phrases that should communicate wisdom and experience instead communicate debauchery and a lack of self-control.Adult.
When that word is used as an adjective, it’s rarely describing something requiring a higher maturity level. For that matter, the word mature usually doesn’t convey a sense of “grown-up” either. When we see something described as having “adult content” or “for mature audiences only,” what does it always mean? That the work is intellectually challenging and requires life experience to truly appreciate? Or that it’s filled with excessive amounts of gore, foul language or nudity?
(Hint: It’s the last one.)
How embarrassing and shameful that phrases that should communicate wisdom and experience instead communicate debauchery and a lack of self-control. Is that the message we want to send to the next generation? Is this how we want them to understand what it means to be an adult—to be mature?
Or is it time we start taking those phrases back?
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of maturity: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature], that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).
A huge aspect of Christianity is growing up. Gaining maturity through repeated interaction with the “word of righteousness.” Learning to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
Without maturity, we’re just spiritual babies, unskilled and untrained. But the more we engage with God’s Word and put what we learn into practice, the more we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, emphasis added).
The apostle Paul told us, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind” (Philippians 3:13-15).
In the eyes of God, maturity isn’t a license to consume whatever kind of media we want. It’s the desire to continue pressing toward the Kingdom of God, “that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (verse 12). Maturity is marked by an understanding of right and wrong as defined by God—and a commitment to live by those definitions.
So much of the world misrepresents what it means to be an adult, but as Christians, it’s essential that we get it right—because, well, let’s face it:
Following God is for mature audiences only.
For more on what it means to be a mature Christian, check out our article “The Fruit of the Spirit.”