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Are You A Peter Pan Christian?

On December 27, 1904, a play written by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie was presented oh stage for the first time at the Duke of York's Theater in the city of Westminster, a borough of London. Partially titled The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, the play has since been presented countless times and adapted for the musical stage, the screen, and even as a ballet. You may recognize it under the more familiar name of Peter Pan. I learned only recently that the original name for the play was Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. You may be saying, "Duh!" It is, after all, the story of a mischievous little boy who spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the island of "Neverland." The story contains some elements of fantasy, of course, one of them being that Peter has the ability to fly, and another is a fairy friend named Tinker Bell. The most apparent theme in the story is Peter Pan's desire to not "grow up" but instead to remain a child forever in order to escape the responsibilities of adulthood.

Allow me to make a spiritual application from the play — the Bible warns us not to be Peter Pan Christians! In clear language we read that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine... but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15). The apostle Peter urges Christians to stay on the grow —"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:1-2). Again, "beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:17b-18a). Other passages like Hebrews 5:12-6:1 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 remind us not all the babies sitting in the church pews on Sunday are literally in diapers. Christians can and do become stuck in spiritual kindergarten. Spiritual growth can stagnate and cease to the point we never progress beyond or even fall back into spiritual infancy. Years go by and we learn little or nothing new about Scripture. Our prayer life tanks and our prayer-lessness leads to spiritual powerlessness. We become uncommitted and haphazard in attendance at worship assemblies. Our giving levels out and our involvement slides backwards. We don't visit shut-ins and we never talk to others about their need for Christ. We make no progress and put forth little or no effort to overcome bad and even sinful habits and attitudes. We flatline spiritually and get "stuck in a rut." First Corinthians 13:11 warns us there should be no Peter Pans in the pews — When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." It's one thing to spiritually be a child. It's quite another thing altogether to stay a child and refuse to grow up. God has a word for all the Peter Pans in the pews — grow up! Are you a Peter Pan Christian?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ