Grow Up: How Can We Grow Into Our Head?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The NIV translation of Ephesians 4:15 paraphrases the Greek text in a way that makes sense, but that hides one of the puzzles of this verse. This translation reads: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect that mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Here's a more literal rendering of the original language: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow up into him in every respect, who is the head, that is, Christ."
This raises a question: How can we grow into our head?
Let me suggest a couple of ways to answer this question. First, we measure human growth by our height. When I was a boy, my physical growth was enshrined on one of the doorframes of my home. Every few months, I would stand up straight as a board while my mother made a pencil mark on the frame to show how much I had grown. Of course, she was measuring the top of my head. So, when I was young, if you were to think of me as a fully-grown person, with my head hitting the 6' 1" mark, then you might have said that I was growing into my head, that is, to the height that would one day be marked by my head. We don't actually speak this way, but this way of thinking may lie behind the language of Ephesians 4:15. The church is to grow up to the full size of Christ, so to speak.
This explanation points to what seems to me the most reasonable answer to the question: How can we grow into our head? When Paul says this in Ephesians 4:15, he's not thinking about physiology so much as ecclesiology (study of the church, ekklesia in Greek). You may recall that in verse 13, the body of Christ, the church, was to be built up to become unified and "mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." This does not mean only that the church is to grow in size. Also, it is to grow in maturity, in character, in witness, and in faithfulness. The church is to become more and more like Christ in word and in deed. So, speaking metaphorically but not literally, one could say that the church is to grow up into Christ.
Thus, the NIV translation, "we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head" gets close to the intended meaning of the original. What this wording misses, except by implication, is the central truth that Christ defines for us the goal of our growth. As the church, and, of course, as individuals we seek to be like Christ in every way.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you growing up into Christ in this way? Are you becoming more and more like him? Are you part of a Christian community that is becoming more like Christ? Are you contributing to this growth?
PRAYER: Gracious God, help us to live out the stirring vision of Ephesians 4:15. May we be people who speak the truth in love so that we, as the body of Christ, might grow up into him, to be more like him in every way.
Please help my church, Lord, to grow up in this way. Please help me to contribute to this growth, using well the gifts you have given me. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.