Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Neither Young Nor Old

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NRSV).

And if I could edit the Bible (wouldn’t we all like to do THAT from time to time?), I would add “there is no longer young or old.” Though we cannot edit Scripture, it is clear to me that the idea I would insert is indeed present, if not explicitly stated.

In “earthly” terms, we talk about old people and young people all the time. The church’s latest institutional lament is how we are aging, soon to be dying off, and in desperate need of young people who will save the church.

My practical response to this lament is, That’s an awful lot of pressure to put on “young people,” and a pretty ineffective invitational strategy, anyway. “Hey there, young person! Come and be a part of this church, we are starting to panic about whether or not we will survive as an institution and we just know that you are going to be our salvation!” Um … no thanks.

My theological response to this lament is, In the Church there is no longer young or old, for all are one in Christ Jesus. It makes me a bit uncomfortable, as an old person, to surrender any evangelical capacity I might have to the younger generations. Why should I be allowed to yield my missional responsibility, just because I’m not in the designated demographic?

The church is a multi-generational body, and the truth is that all who follow Jesus, no matter what age, must faithfully pattern our lives in discipleship, including reaching out to invite others to be a part of the abundant life made known in Christ Jesus and made manifest in the church.

It is true that we old folks need the younger ones; it is equally true that the younger folks need us old fogies. This is not an either-or proposition, for “all are one in Christ Jesus.”