There is an ever-widening relational chasm between generations. The blazing speed of technological and societal change has ensured that this chasm is broad and challenging to cross. I have eight-year-old twin boys, and their experience of the world is vastly different than my eight-year-old experience. When I was eight, the peak of entertainment was a Gameboy Color (a handheld digital Yahtzee game was a close second). My twins are growing up in a world where any show, movie, or game is instantly available on a handheld device with a stunningly vivid touchscreen. At eight years old, my grandfather was in the fields picking cotton. Middle school students today would have no idea what they should do if an atomic bomb struck their town, but that was the junior high reality for my grandparents. In case you are wondering, apparently, the safest place to be in the event of an atomic bomb is underneath a desk.
This generational gap is not just evident in the world, but it has also crept into the church. The generations gather, serve, and sing together but struggle to build relationships with one another. It is easier and far more comfortable for the generations to huddle up on their side of the chasm. Building bridges is hard work. It is easier to serve someone than to know them.
But Christians did not sign up for what is easy and comfortable. The broad path is easy, and the narrow way is hard. The wide gate is a portal to destruction; the narrow door leads to life. It is not hard to march in time with Satan; his cadence is your desires. The spiritually dead in his parade float along, “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind (Ephesians 2:3).” Keeping in step with King Jesus requires the death of self. As the smoke rises from the sacrificed self, the King remakes us in himself and replaces the old desires with the good works that he has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). The number one good work that God has called his children to do is the work of love.
In 1 John 4:7-12, the disciple Jesus loved encourages the church to walk in the good work of love. He says,
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
How does one generation do the hard work of love and care for another generation? It all begins with God. Love is not from your feelings or will. It is from something other than good circumstances or the ease of a relationship. Love is from God. He is the great fountainhead of all the love that was, is, or will be. Love flows from the heart of God with such force that it pushes into every corner of the universe, and Romans 5 says that the Holy Spirit channels that love into the heart of every believer. God himself is the source of our love for one another. Love is hard work, but not because we need more resources. God gives us new life, adopts us into his family, showers us with love, and wants us to know and be known by him. We love because we have been loved.
God does not just resource us to love; he shows us what love looks like. God’s sketch of love does not look like a happy couple or a heart emoji. God’s picture of love is a bloody cross. Love gives something eternally good to someone else at the expense of self. The cost of God’s love – the love that gives life to all who believe – was unfathomable. John goes into vivid detail with one word: propitiation. Jesus bore the full weight of his Father’s wrath so we could have life in him. Love looks like a blood-stained cross.
This is the kind of love that should mark the church. When the church loves like this, the world sees the invisible God in us. Our love must look different from the self-centered counterfeit in the world. The church marches to different orders. We don’t just do what we want. We follow a King who died to give us life. We love because we have been loved. There are many ways that Jesus’ love gets displayed in the church, but love shines the brightest when it bridges the widest gaps. The chasmic divide between generations is the perfect canvas for God’s love, and the church has some painting to do.
Earlier, I said serving someone is easier than knowing them. The more differences two people have, the harder they must work to relate. Knowing someone from a different generation requires time and effort to understand their world experience. But this work is worth it because, like our Father, we want others to have life in him, and, like our Savior, we must enter their world and show them the love of God.
There is an ever-widening chasm between generations. But love is from God, and his love is very good at crossing chasms. So don’t just sign up to serve another generation; love them. Do the hard work of care. Cross the divide and show the watching world the incredible love of God.
Listen to Pastor Seth’s sermon from the Sunday night series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate.
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