Happenings

Let’s be mature

Oct 2004    

AT THE end of July, an irate parent wrote a letter to The Straits Times Forum Page to complain about a morning radio broadcast during which one radio jockey host gave his advice on how a shy caller should approach a girl. His comments were found to be coarse and unacceptable.

Even before the Media Development Authority found the remarks in breach of the Radio Programming Code, the station’s programming director wrote to apologise for the “cheeky banter”.

This is no isolated incident. There have been previous complaints about what went on air, and another station was fined last year. Turn on the radio in the morning and you will probably hear all sorts of sexual innuendoes and lewd comments. The au-dience would be mainly adults making their way to work. People get riled up when children hear what they shouldn’t hear.

My feeling is that it is a matter of supply and demand. The radio hosts give listeners what the listeners want, or what they think the listeners want. It is, after all, a mature audience. The children should be in school and unable to tune in.

But what does it mean to be mature? In today’s society, to be mature seems to be a licence to be crude and rude — as well as sexually active. Maturity has become the freedom to do whatever we want, to choose “alternative lifestyles”, to pursue a life of hedonism, to smoke tobacco, to drink alcohol, to do everything we were not allowed to do as children.

Consider what is meant when we refer to “adult language” and “adult magazines”.

Do we mean language that is erudite and sophisticated, and magazines that are civilizing and instructive? No, “adult” means that which is coarse, vulgar and obscene. To be an adult today means you are allowed to go watch an explicit rape scene in a movie. It is a sad moment for our society when crudity and inappropri-ateness can be described as “cheeky banter”.

What a change it would make to our world if being mature meant being of noble character; a good and righteous person of integrity and honesty. An adult should be someone educated, refined, cultivated, genuine, uncor-rupted — someone pure.

That is the way the Bible describes maturity: the attain-ment of the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, according to the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (4.13). To be mature is to be more like Jesus, and He embodies all that is good and righteous.

Why wouldn’t someone want to be like that? Because we think being good and righteous means being self-righteous, sanctimonious, smug prudes with artificial smiles? No, although we may know Christians who are like that. (It doesn’t mean all mature Christians are alike.) I do think that we should lighten up a little, learn to laugh at ourselves.

But I think the reason people don’t want to be good is that their feet are swift to run to evil. Everywhere around us, peo-ple break the law if they can get away with it. Even when other people are watching, some people are happy to do what is wrong.

I will always remember the day, years ago, when a speaker at a Methodist primary school chapel asked the students if they helped their parents tear HDB car park coupons. “What time do you put on the coupon? How many add five minutes?” Hands shot up. “How many 10 minutes?” More hands went up. “Fifteen minutes?” A forest of hands. Hands went up admitting to adding time right up to 30 minutes! Who taught them to cheat like this? Too few students said they tore the actual time on the coupon.

I don’t think this is what Paul means when he tells us in 1 Corinthians to be in-fants in evil! He did, on the other hand, tell us to be mature in our thinking. There is a difference between adults and children, and the difference is that adults should know better, not know worse. We should know right from wrong, and seek to do right.

The writer to the Hebrews writes in chapter 5, verses 13 and 14, “For every-one who partakes only of milk is not accus-tomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the ma-ture, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Are we accustomed to the word of righteousness? Have we practised to have our senses trained to discern good and evil?

I myself fail often. Pride, anger, bitter-ness, these are enemies I have to battle against constantly. But in spite of mistakes, I do try to battle my enemies, to go for solid food, to be mature. I hope you will, too. It is a long process of development which may not be completed this side of heaven, but let’s start.

Let’s leave behind childish things and seek to be mature adults. Let’s lead the way and show our society what adults really should be like when we grow in the image of God.

And when they follow us, we may have to find another meaning for the word “adulterate”.

The Rev Chiang Ming Shun is the Assistant Pastor at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

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