Today’s reading was 1 Peter 5:5-6
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time
These instructions seem almost quaint and self-evident, but it is striking to me how little respect the younger generation sometimes have for the older generations. In Peter’s situation, he may well have been relating it to their behavior in the church, but it surely related to the wider culture also.
I remember seeing a video recently of Keanu Reeves riding the subway in New York, and giving up his seat to a lady. He did not know he was being filmed. It wasn’t done as a publicity stunt. He was simply doing the decent thing, and the video became popular because doing the decent thing seems to be in short demand.
In my own situation at Central Christian Church, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with the outgoing pastor, Roger Edrington, for the last 7 months. What a blessing it has been. He has a wealth of wisdom and understanding of this congregation and it would have been foolishness in the extreme for me to come in arrogant and “all-knowing.” I would have fallen on my face more than once. As it is, I have benefitted hugely from his mentorship and guidance as an older brother in the faith. I have learned from his life and his style of ministry, and seen areas where I need to change and grow. We who are younger can benefit so much from those who are older, if they are willing to share, and we are willing to listen.
Last night on TV there was a KQED special about Colditz Castle, a WWII prisoner of war “camp” where mostly RAF (airforce) personnel were imprisoned. Hearing these older men (mostly in their 80s or older) share their wisdom about how they endured the long days of captivity was wonderful as they spoke of their camaraderie, and the necessity of hope. I think since I grew up with the shadow of WWII still hanging over the nation, I always respected veterans, because I knew that they had experienced horrors and difficulties that I might never encounter. Admittedly, not every veteran is a philosopher, and some are so scarred from their experiences that they cannot speak of them, but simply the fact that an older person has more years of life, and a greater wealth of experience qualifies them for respect.
God opposes the proud, and pride is a strong temptation for the younger, who are perhaps unaware or disregard their own frailty and propensity for error. Our humility can be demonstrated in the way we treat those older than us. And I pray that we will choose humility, rather than God oppose us and enforce it on us.