What Old Christians Can Offer Young Christians
From Steve Brown’s Key Life Network, where there is more:
I do know the main text for the series and, as I grow old, it has become my daily prayer: “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:17-18).
A number of years ago, I read a book by Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. It was one of those books God puts into our lives at just the right time. It was so important for me for a number of reasons.
One reason is that it gave me a new attitude toward those who are so angry about something I said. Those comments always include words like “shocked,” “offended,” “insulted,” “upset,” “outraged,” etc. And unless I just ignored it, I usually responded in kind. (“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because I’m the meanest preacher in the valley.”) Nouwen helped me see myself as the worst of Pharisees (toward Pharisees) and that my self-righteousness was incredibly self-righteous. The book helped me to become a kinder person.
In fact, it’s one of the reasons I became such a spiritual giant.
Uh…okay…not that, but at least better and more gentle.
But for the purposes of this seminar I’m working on, Nouwen pointed out that the parable of the prodigal wasn’t just about the sons. It was also about the father and the example he gives to older Christians as we deal with those who are younger. He said that we’re called to give the same grace and love that the father gave to his sons and the same grace and love our Father/God gave to us.
Neither of the sons deserved that grace and love. One was a drunken and greedy womanizer and the other an uptight, judgmental and religious twit. And yet, their father loved them equally. Nouwen said that we old guys should go out and do likewise…and I’m trying.
So as I work on the seminar, I’m thinking about gifts that old guys (“guys” being generic, by the way) should give to young people. I had a long list of those, but have whittled it down to four. (I only have four sessions at the seminar.)
First, there is the gift of forgiven sin and failure. That’s what Paul did in Romans 7 in his confession. He was teaching on the relationship between the law and Gospel, but he did more than that by talking about his own sin and God’s love. He made sure that the people at Rome didn’t worship at the wrong altar, to wit, his altar. I believe that confession of one’s sins is the way we witness to the world. But it’s also the way we encourage one another. When older Christians see the shame and guilt of younger Christians, one of the best things we (in fact, all of us) can do to make a difference is to say, “You don’t know nothin’! Let me tell you about me and, more important, let me tell you about Jesus.”
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