The New Truly-Multigenerational World
This morning I read a post on the Wall Street Journal blog site about the new generation, which the blogger calls the F-Generation (and I'd bet that that label just may stick.) I also read Mark Brown's application of that post to the Church. I highly recommend both to you, and I won't take the time to cover all the points in both blogs here. What I will write presumes that you have read these posts, though . . . so if you don't read them, assume that you don't follow my thoughts because you don't understand their foundation.
We are each called to live out our lives this day - moment by moment - in stewardship of all God has given each of us, and in active love and kindness toward those we impact. Jesus was clear about the primary evidence of true obedience to Him - active love and kindness toward each other in the Church, active love and kindness toward the stranger, and active love and kindness toward our enemies. As we experience the long life spans that are becoming normal and will increase, our primary challenge to this kind of love is ceasing to be the old divisions between races and creeds and genders and sexual orientation and political or economic groups - although we still need to pay attention to equality in all those areas. As we experience the fruit of medical and healthy-lifestyle advances in our longer lives, the primary challenge to a living and active expression of our faith is becoming the divisions in culture between our generations. (Although we have always had generation gaps, we have not always had 5 generations alive at any given time and the older generations so very well populated!)
My challenge to all of us who call ourselves "Christians" or "Disciples" or "Followers of Jesus" is that we would spend the energy to bridge the huge gaps we experience with those older than us and with those younger than us. When we experience the frustration of having an encounter that leaves us shaking our heads in wonder -- or even worse, feeling abused and disrespected -- it is so easy to retreat to the safety of the people who make sense to us, and to avoid the "abuse" of those whose world-views and values are so perplexing. But a genuine expression of love engages those who are difficult, rather than allowing walls and divisions to grow and flourish. If we are genuinely committed to being obedient to Jesus, we will let the power of His Spirit work in us to give us the fortitude to show love by listening and considering, and by offering real continuing relationships of engagement with each other.
My challenge to my parents and their generation and the one older than them (so to the parents of the baby boomers and to their parents who are still living) is to take the time to understand the strengths of the new generations (those younger than the baby boomers) and to also understand that the contempt that they perceive is often not contempt for them or for their values and opinions, but rather simple refusal to give respect to old structures of authority that no longer hold power. (Read the posts I link above!) They are perfectly willing to show you respect and to show your opinions and values respect, as long as they are given the reciprocal respect that says "you are capable of considering all the evidence and forming opinions and living lives that make sense, and I am not going to attempt to take that away from you."
My challenge to the younger generations is that they cultivate the social skills and emotional fortitude that allow them to express their disagreements and refusals in ways that do not come across as contemptuous or angry; and that they cultivate a compassion for the way the older generations (including the baby boomers) have invested themselves in their ideas and values over many years, and so find it excruciatingly painful or even unthinkable to consider that they may have been wrong in some of their basic assumptions about life. In many ways you may have to nurture yourselves because those older than you cannot affirm your beliefs and choices, and you must trust that if you are right the rightness of your beliefs will not only reward you but even give you the ability to nurture and heal those who lived their lives based on some wrong assumptions.
And to the leaders of our churches and of our denominations . . . you have my prayers as you are asked to please those who resolutely protect all that they truly believe to be right and holy, and to also embrace the passion and insight of those who rejoice in a new entrepreneurial open-source world that they see as closer to the coming New Heavens and New Earth! May you strive to please only God, and out of that may you play the role that God calls you to play in God's purposes in these years!
God is here, among us! He sees each heart, and fully understands the dynamics in each culture and structure. He is actively working to shape each of us, and is actively working to heal our cultures and structures. When we trust the power of the Triune God to accomplish God's full purposes, we find ourselves willing to receive that power to reach out and be the agents of reconciliation that we are each called to be.