As Singapore prepares to celebrate her 50th year of independence, there has been a lot of emphasis on honouring the ‘pioneer generation’. Rightly so, for that generation toiled hard (and many still do) to build Singapore up. Our generation today enjoys relative prosperity and comfort because of the sacrifices made by the older generation.
Even as our church prepares to celebrate her 60th anniversary, we too need to pay attention to how we regard the older generation. The Bible clearly teaches respect for our elders, in both the Old and New Testament.
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)
“You who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
Living in our fast-paced and fast-changing society, it can be tempting for the younger generation to dismiss the older generation as too slow, old-fashioned or irrelevant. This can happen in church too. I was struck by the words of George Verwer (founder of mission agency Operation Mobilisation), who wrote these words when he was still a young adult: “There are older men of God whom we might think stuffy, old-fashioned, and a bit short on zeal. Let us be careful. How burdened will you seem when you are sixty and have been bombarded night and day by the forces of darkness for many years? We must constantly forestall pride by asking ourselves this question. Oh yes, I take by faith for myself the victory I have in Christ, but I want to be careful about presumption. As younger people, you and I must show mercy to the older generation. When I speak to them I ask them in return to have mercy in their dealings with us, I know it is a two-way problem. It seems to me that God wants to take the older generation and the younger generation and awaken them both to the fact that neither would be anything without Christ and His grace. Let’s learn from Christ the meekness to receive one another in a loving spirit. Let us know well the teaching of esteeming others better than ourselves.”
Do we in the younger generation sometimes dismiss the older generation’s viewpoints or ability to contribute? Conversely, does the older generation sometimes dismiss the younger’s opinions? As Verwer acknowledged, it is a two-way problem, and we all need God’s grace.
I am very thankful that our church is one with a good representation of both the younger and older generations. We have much to learn from the faith journeys of those who have been ‘fighting the good fight’ for many years. Some may have grown weary, and need our prayer and encouragement. As Verwer puts it, “The wounds which we sometimes judge to be marks of defeat in others are very often battle scars from faithful service to Christ. We see a Christian who seems weary and no longer triumphant. Immediately we despise him as defeated, knocked out.
But we have missed the point. Perhaps he is less effective than he once was because he has seen more and harder battles than we. He may even have won many of the battles but not without scars and wounds in the process.”
And the older generation can both learn from and encourage the younger generation, understanding that there are new and difficult battles that this generation has to fight. Just as a family, and a society, has to learn to live harmoniously with its different generations, so too does a church. It takes God’s grace, and humility. As 1 Peter 5:5 goes on to say after mentioning submitting to our elders, “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
By Jan Choo, Assistant Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 6&7 September 2014)