THE YOUNG, THE OLD AND THE CHURCH
The young are important because
they are the successors: like the runners in a relay race. The nation, society
and family carry on from generation to generation and so does the church. Their
faith then needs to be cultivated. They have to be given proper guidance and
training in order to mould them into virtuous and useful Christians. This work,
of course, must be carried out by the senior members of the church. Outside,
their work is to evangelize, while inside, they must nurture the youths. The
church regards both the young and the old as equally important. Both have their
strongpoint and their weakpoints.
and Courage The young have ambition, zeal and strong determination. They
are able to undergo hardship and to strive forward despite adverse
circumstances. Daniel, for example, was taken to Babylon while still a youth. King
Nebuchadnezzar treated him well and sent men to serve him the king’s meat. But
Daniel resolutely decided not to eat the king’s meat, preferring to eat pulse
and drink plain water only. When Darius succeeded the throne, he was unafraid,
defied the king’s decree and continued to pray to God, facing Jerusalem three times a day (Dan 1:8; 6:10).
When David was still a youth, he
went to the battle field to visit his brothers. When he heard Goliath, the
Philistine giant, challenging the Israelites, he was indignant. He marched up
to the front and killed the giant with just a small pebble (1 Sam 17:41-49).
Samuel and Jeremiah were both
called of God to be prophets in their youth (I Sam 3: Jer 1:4-9). Timothy was a
young evangelist (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Tim 4:12). The life of a prophet or an
evangelist is hard and full of problems, but these people can handle them
because they are strong and courageous.
Memory The memory of the young is good. They are impressionable, and if
properly nurtured with the truth, they will grow deeper in their spiritual
understanding. The Bible says; “Train up a child in the way he should go and
when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Although this verse
speaks only of children, it applies to youths as well. If they are trained
early to walk in the correct path of the truth, they shall remember it deeply
even till they are old.
John said, “…. I have written to
you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abideth in you, and
you have overcome the wicked one” (1 in 2:4). Those youths having received the
truth, were able to retain it in their hearts, and so they developed a kind of
spiritual strength to overcome the wicked one — Satan.
Take Joseph for example. He left
his home and was sold to Egypt
when he was only seventeen. Later when his master’s wife tried to seduce him,
he dared not do anything that would incur the anger of God (Gen 39). Probably
he had learned of the word of God at home that he should fear God and that he
has not forgotten.
Timothy was brought up by his
grandmother and mother during his young days. Thus Timothy has unfeigned faith
(2 Tim 1:5).
In executing the various aspects of the holy work of God, it is vital to have
healthy strong bodies. Paul said, “… in all things approving ourselves as
ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in
distresses, in strips, in imprisonments, in tumult, in labours, in watchings,
in fastings ….” . Also “In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of
robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, …. in wariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger
and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness … “ (2 Cor 6:4-5;
11:26-27). These are the personal encounters of Paul. Only through faith and
the grace of the Holy Spirit together with a healthy body can the divine task
he accomplished. In the old days, Moses conscripted males of over twenty years
to be soldiers and they formed the strong and dynamic Israelite army. They were
victorious in battles. This brings out the fact that a strong physique is
necessary in any form of work.
Their Weak points
Their experiences in life are limited. Their perspective on humanity and the
matters of the world are too narrow. Therefore they often suffer losses and can
easily be defeated. When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam went to Shechem.
The Israelites and the sons of Nebat also went with Rehoboam to crown him king
pleading only that he would alleviate some of their burdens and hardships.
Rehoboam first sought the views of the elders and they advised him to give his
answer with fair words. Rehoboam then asked the youths and they advised him to
rule the people with harsh methods. Rehoboam rejected the elders’ advice and
carried out the suggestions of the youths. Consequently, except for the tribe
of Judah, all the eleven tribes rebelled against Rehoboam and set up Jeroboam
as king instead (1 Kings 12:1-20). This disastrous folly was the result of
inexperience; both of Rehoboam himself and his fresh aides.
Youth tends to be overzealous and ambitious. In a fast-moving society, they
expect quick results in their every venture. Yet, the Bible says; “Let every
man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of men
worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19-20). Also, “He that is soon
angered dealeth foolishly” (Prov 14:7). It is foolish to do anything while still
emotionally upset. Moses while still in his early youth lived in the king’s
palace. He went out one day to look at his brethren. When he saw an Egyptian
bullying an Israelite, he was worked up and in a moment of fury, killed the
Egyptian. Later, when the Pharoah heard of this matter, he wanted to kill
Moses. So he fled to Midian and dwelt there (Ex 2:11-15).
When Solomon was old, he was
seduced into idolatry by his many pagan wives. Therefore God divided his
kingdom into two; giving only two tribes to his son Rehoboam, and the remaining
to Jeroboam. At that time, the kingdom was continually harassed by the enemies
from outside. Jeroboam did not wait for the right time and unwittingly rebelled
against Solomon. His premature attempt met with a crushing defeat and he went
on an exile to Egypt
when Solomon wanted to kill him. (1 Kings 11:4-40) God has already pre-planned
his rulership. Had he waited just a little while longer, he would not have had
to flee in fear. His hastiness did not pay off. Neither did Moses’.
The young are sometimes very bold having the valour to face all sorts of
danger, but they
are not experienced enough to handle things. If they stumble upon unexpected
obstacles, they are confused, surprised and even doubtful. Their enthusiasm
will be dampened.
According to the ancient history of China,
when the Western Hans attacked, the Ch’u enlisted youths into the Chinese army
to fight against the Hans. At first the Ch’u army was extremely courageous. But
the Hans cleverly contrived a plot. Suddenly in the midst of fighting, they
sang loudly the Ch’u national folk songs. When the young Ch’u soldiers heard
this, their fighting spirit diminished because they were homesick. They lost.
It is said that the mark of a general is not his courage
but his strategy, and the strength of the army is not in numbers hut in skill.
If the Ch’u soldiers were better trained, more experienced and better prepared,
they would not have fallen into the Hans’ trap.
and Foresight When the elderly engage in business, they think deeply and
are far-sighted, making careful and complete plans. The elders suggested to
Rehohoam to give his answers in fair words. They have insight into the heart of
men. Experience shows that it’s easier to win support and loyalty through
virtue than through force. Unfortunately the king did not heed the elders’
advice. Consequently, the kingdom collapsed. This story elucidates the fact
that the older people are wiser and have profound insight compared to the
younger ones. These, tempered with their experience make their advice worth
The king of Syria once sent
out chariots and calvaries to Dothan
and they hastened there by night surrounding the city desiring to capture
Elisha. When Elisha’s servant woke up the following morning and saw this, he
was stunned and frightened. He told Elisha. Elisha comforted him saying, “Fear
not; for they that be with us are more than they that are with them”. Elisha
was not excited or worried, he was calm and collected. He believed deeply that
God would be with them, and that they would not be taken by the enemy. And sure
enough, Elisha and the Israelites suffered no harm from the armies of Syria.
In the annals of Chinese history,
during the late Han Dynasty, a certain Mah Lun failed to guard the post and the
great army of Tze Mah Yi took the opportunity to attack that city where Kung
Ming was living. At that time there were no guards in the city and the
situation was tense and very dangerous. But Kung Ming retained his composure,
undaunted by this change of circumstances, he casually commanded his men to
open the gate of the city wide, while he played the harp as though nothing
unusual was going on. The attacking army saw this and thought that it was part
of a military ploy. They were afraid to enter the city. Thus the crisis passed
and peace was restored.
The elderly people have plodded more deeply into the world. With the length of
years behind them, their experiences abound and so their views and actions are
usually proper and suitable. They are able to distinguish right from wrong and
will not jump to conclusions. Once the Priests and the Pharisees sent their
officers to arrest Jesus in order to convict him. They accused the Lord of being
a fraud and a blasphemous sinner. But Nicodemus being very dissatisfied with
their rough treatment, protested saying; “Does our law judge a man, without
first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (Jn 7:50-51).
Their Weak points
and Prejudice Some elderly people assert that they have lived more
years, their experiences are wider and deeper; and therefore their methods of
operation are always better. They maintain their own ideas under all
circumstances, not at all willing to take on the suggestions of youths or even
to consider them. But the Bible says: “.... without favour, doing nothing from
partiality” (1 Tim 5:21).
The older people find it irresistible not to glorify themselves over past
achievements which admittably give pleasant reminiscence. Yet it is equally
true that the social world is in a constant state of flux and is continuously
progressing. The youths of today have received modern education; fresh
knowledge which should be utilised. If the seniors were to be unyielding, a
whole lot of young bright talents in the church would be wasted. Therefore the
older ones should not be self-conceited.
An old adage says that once the moon passes the fifteenth of the Lunar Month,
its brightness decreases; men who have passed their middle age will gradually
rest from everything. There is some truth in this saying. When a man passes the
middle age, his mental and physical prowess, gradually languish. As a result
their ability to work also slackens, unless God specially wants to make use of
this person. In that case, he would be given extra health and physical
strength. Like Moses, who after attaining the age of eighty, became the leader
of the Israelites and led them out of Egypt. When Caleb was eighty-five years
old, he was still able to win wars driving out the other inhabitants of Canaan (Acts 7:22-30; Josh 14:6-15). For most people who
have passed the middle age, they will grow weary although they may sometimes
wish to use more of their strength to do more work.
Both the young and the old are
members of the church — the various parts of Christ’s body. Although they have
their own strong points and their own weakpoints, when the former is
accentuated and the latter eradicated wherever possible, when they freely
exchange views and suggestions and work together harmoniously, it will not be
difficult to enlarge the perfect body of Christ — the church. Even if
prominence is given to the youths, the older workers must not fade from the
scene. The divine work must he coordinated so that the old and the young have
one mind in sharing and working diligently for the faith of the gospel and to
pass it down generation after generation until the Lord comes again.