Old people just don’t understand…

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Do you ever remember telling a friend how your parents just didn’t understand the way things were these days? Have you ever sat down and tried to explain to your parents how they just don’t know what it’s like to be in school, play on a sports team, to work a certain job, have a lame curfew, to date a special someone, listen to a more authentic style of music, to consume a particular substance, or deal with the social pressure of your peers?

Perhaps instead of perpetuating our own sense of entitlement and Twitter/blog/Instagram-fueled obsession with constantly hearing ourselves speak, we could just shut up for a minute and listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before?

So much of what we hear and see today perpetuates this idea of “adapt or die!” Even many churches and parachurch organizations are consumed with figuring out what this generation’s youth want churches, clubs, groups, associations, etc. to be like and then adjusting their organization accordingly… Should we really believe that today’s #hashtagging, YOLO-oriented, chronically-updating, consistently fickle, selfie-obsessed generation of “Millennials” has way more wisdom to offer about a church, club, group, organization, association, business, society, etc. than any of those who have thought about, dreamed of, bled for, and faithfully served in any of those entities decade after decade, amidst all its hiccups, twists, turns, failures, changes, challenges, ups and downs?

A major source of the problem is the ever-growing hubris of every generation, which thinks it has finally discovered, once and for all, the right way of doing things. C.S. Lewis very wisely called it “chronological snobbery,” defining it as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”

I remember reading The Wise Old Woman (a Japanese Folk Tale retold by Yoshiko Uchida) when I was in elementary school. The crux of the story was how a ruthless and cruel young king who had declared old people to be useless was later shocked and surprised by the wisdom of an old woman who saved them from potential invasion.

After having his village threatened by an even more ruthless king and being given the chance to save the village only by solving some difficult task-based riddles, the young king slowly realized how much wisdom old people possess and how important that wisdom was to everyone else in the village. After the once cruel young king sees the error of his ways and faults in his thinking, he apologizes to the elderly and seeks the forgiveness of the wise old woman, as well as the entire village. He then proclaims that older people must be treated with the respect and honor they deserve; for they have much wisdom that has been built up over the years to share with the younger generations.

After all, it is said that King Solomon was the wisest man to ever live, and he left us with many words of wisdom in the book of Proverbs calling us to listen to and adhere to the wisdom of our fathers and mothers. Particularly the passages 1:1-9, 2:1-22, 3:1-7, 3:11-12, 4:1-27, 5:1-2, 9:10, 14:27, 15:33, 19:23…. really, pretty much the entirety of the book.

If we’re truly honest with ourselves, what we really need from the church (and every other group of people) is not another “yes-man” entity enabling our excessive pride and self-confidence, and merely giving us what we want. Rather, what we need is something bigger than us, older than us, bound by a truth that transcends us and a story that will outlast us; basically, we desperately need something that doesn’t change to fit ourselves and our whims, but changes us to be the Christ-like person we were created to be. What we need is the gospel.

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