I’m old. I admit it. Not as old as Yoda, but close enough. I can’t bench press my weight anymore. I’ll never run another mile in under eight minutes. Sometimes, in the middle of a sentence, I forget my point.
What was I saying?
Oh yeah, I’m old.
I was having an interesting conversation with a young twenty-something not too long ago. He was telling me how hard it is to be a Christian in today’s culture. He wasn’t really looking for advice, but I gave it to him anyhow. Far be it from me to withhold an unsolicited opinion.
His response didn’t really surprise me. I’ve heard it many times before, “You don’t understand my generation. Things are different today than when you were a young man” (Implied: back in the dark ages!).
But are things really that different?
Sure, when I was twenty, computers filled rooms, not your hand. There was no such thing as a smart phone. Matter of fact, nobody even had a cell phone! The most exciting video games were Pong and Pac-Man. And in 1977 the Minnesota Vikings were actually super-bowl contenders.
Yup, lots of things have changed, but in more ways than not, many things are and always will be the same.
Five things true of every generation:
1. Every generation thinks they know better than the generation before them.
When I was twenty, I thought my parents were totally out of touch with reality. They lacked the education and vast experience I had. How could they be as smart as me? Everything was clear in my mind. I knew in my knower I was God’s gift to humanity. I knew how to run a family. I knew how to do church. I knew I was going to be much better at everything than the old guard before me.
However, in my youthful arrogance I was cocky, and I failed to realize that there is no substitute for wisdom, and wisdom typically comes with age and experience. True then. True now.
2. Every generation is significantly influenced by their culture.
Go back a thousand years in history and you’ll find humans profoundly influenced by the culture around them. Sure, the world was smaller, and the medium for temptations different, but our base human desires have always been the same. We are driven by a desire for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. We always want more, not less, stuff. We tend to drift from the simple to the complicated. And our view of family, faith, and morality is significantly molded by what we see either on the stage in 10th century Europe or on FOX today.
3. Every generation wrestles with the same two big questions: Who am I? Why am I here?
Philosophers for millennia have asked the same questions, “Why do we exist? What is mankind’s great purpose?” The Hitler Youth Brigade of the 30’s drew young people with the appeal of being special. The Black Panthers of the 60’s gave a voice to African American men and women who reacted to unjust oppression. The Jesus People Movement of the early 70’s gave hippies a spiritual purpose that rejected the religious status quo. All of these groups struck a chord with some because people are desperate for purpose and meaning in their lives.
From the beginning of time, we humans have struggled with our identity and purpose. This has always been true, and it always will be.
4. Every generation attempts to alter truth to suit their desires and beliefs.
I hear it all the time, “Truth is relative. What’s true for you doesn’t make it true for me.” For some crazy reason, many in our world have actually accepted that there is no absolute truth. (They are absolutely sure about his, however!)
Why do we reject that absolute moral and spiritual truth exists? Because we insist on being our own gods. We want to go our own way and do our own thing. From the first couple on (see Genesis 3), we’ve been questioning if God gets to call the shots or not. Relativism is popular right now, but every generation throughout history has worshiped false gods and false beliefs of their own making.
5. Every generation is fascinated by the new, the bigger, and the better.
Small shiny objects fascinate us. We are always looking for the next new thing, the next new fashion, or the next new trend in technology. Remember MySpace? That’s so 2003. There are rumblings now in the tech world about the impending doom of Facebook (go figure).
Certainly, new often represents progress. I have no desire to drive a Model T or carry a cell phone that could double as a weapon. That being said, may I gently remind the younger generation that someday what they think is “hot” now will be a forgotten memory (especially when their memory goes)?
Things change. True then. True now.
So what’s my point?
If you’re old, embrace the new. Adjust. Adapt. It’s okay. You’ll be fine.
If you’re young, accept and appreciate the old. Remember nothing on planet earth lasts forever. Only people do. So perhaps you could get off your trendy high horse and maybe show some respect to the generation that went before you. They might not be as out of touch as you think.
At the core, every generation deals with the same heart issues, the same human tendencies, and the same proclivity to failure and sin. This has always been true, and it always will be true. People are people.
By the way, that’s why every generation desperately needs God. We all need the hope that comes through grace and faith in Him.