The popular term “generation gap” refers to the chasm separating a younger generation from an older generation and has probably always been there. One can almost hear Adam telling Eve, “These kids don’t know how good they have it. We only had a fig leaf for clothes, but they have the whole forest.”
There must have been some sort of gap, or why would the last verse in the Old Testament refer to fathers turning their hearts towards their children, and vice versa? (Malachi 4:6) Could it be that each generation has some things the other needs – especially in the Christian community?
Older people have a certain amount of wisdom because they’ve lived through many political philosophies, economic depressions, recessions, wars and rumors of wars. Most have experienced financial, health, family, and yea verily, even church problems, yet lived to tell the tale. They’ve seen children born and parents die. Sure they might tire more easily, be unable to do what they once did, and are reluctant to try new ideas, but that’s why they need the younger generation.
Younger people have greater mobility, endurance, and physical strength. To them everything is new and exciting. They have enthusiasm and think of possibilities, potential, and productivity. They aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions and won’t settle for evasive answers. They are the present and the future. Sure they need patience, tend to leap before they look, and lack wisdom that comes from experience, but that’s why they need the older generation.
1 Samuel 3 recounts a generational story. Old Eli was the high priest of Israel who took young Samuel into the temple to tutor him in the ways of God. One night God called to Samuel. But Samuel thought it was Eli, so he ran to him and said, “Here I am.” Eli told Samuel he wasn’t calling him and to go back to bed. When it happened a third time, Eli realized God was calling the boy. He told Samuel to go back and if it happened again to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” That’s what he did. Then God revealed to Samuel that Eli and his family would soon suffer. The next day Samuel was reluctant to tell Eli this news, but Eli insisted. To which Eli replied, “He is the Lord.”
Here is what I find interesting about this story. God spoke to Samuel, but Samuel had no idea it was God’s voice. He needed Eli who had experience with God and such matters to explain what was happening. It was Eli who knew it was God’s voice, not Samuel.
Eli and Samuel needed each other. Old Eli needed to pass the ministry cloak on to someone younger. Young Samuel needed Eli to teach him how to use the cloak and perhaps not make the same mistakes he had made
Christian generations need each other as well, so how can any gaps be bridged? A good start comes from valuing others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Value, respect and appreciate each other’s different styles, communication skills, preferences, approaches, and perspectives, and focus on the one major thing in common – Christ. If Christ is the overall focus, he will bridge the gap.
Author: Barbara Dahlgren