Generation to Generation

Mom and son
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/4021518793/">Ed Yourdon</a>

Malachi 4:5-6

Just before the day all of these great and awesome things happen, I’ll send Elijah to tell you the truth. He’ll show parents how to do right by their kids, and kids to do right by their parents. That way your community won’t be totally wiped out.

Understanding between one generation and the next is essential for any society to continue to exist more than a few years. And yet, tension and misunderstanding between generations is nearly always the state of things when a new generation comes of age.

“Kids these days!” is something every generation exclaims about the next at some point, while “My parents just don’t get it,” is probably as often said by each generation of the one before.

The pain around these struggles to understand and to be understood is particularly acute, ironically enough, because (in spite of appearances to the contrary) members of both generations know the existence of the community depends on finding common ground, on “parents doing right by their kids, and kids doing right by their parents.”

One can easily see Malachi sitting on either side of this great divide. Is he the old prophet looking on as “kids these days” seem to be taking society in a new direction he doesn’t approve of (all these new-fangled ideas about marriage)? Or is he the young firebrand prophet looking at the mistakes of the older generation he and his peers feel they need to fix (they’ve compromised away the real meaning of life behind empty ritual)?

In either case, Malachi has the wisdom to see that it will take both sides of the generational divide doing right by each other, and the one who can tell the truth to every generation and have them listen and understand is a rare gift from God.

Generation to Generation

Mother, teenager, and child
Photo credit:<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/2566365965/">Mckay Savage</a>

1 John 2:12-14

I’m writing to you, kids, because what he did made your future possible.
I’m writing to you, parents, because you’ve met him in the past.
I’m writing to you, youth, because you have overcome evil.

I’m writing to you, kids, because you know God.
I’m writing to you, parents, because you’ve met him in the past.
I’m writing to you, youth, because you’re strong, because you’ve got the idea living in you, and you have overcome evil.

As we contemplate the beginning of a new year, we may do well to reflect on this passage’s affirmations of future, past, and present.

Each generation has something to contribute: the children to the future possibilities, the parents to the personal remembrance of where the community has been in touch with its source of life, and the youth to the strength for doing the work right now.

Perhaps many communities that are struggling are having trouble, in part, because they’ve forgotten the order of things. The elder generation is trying to do it all while the children are coddled rather than challenged, and the youth are ignored.

It takes tremendous strength of character for a community, whether it’s a religious one or some other kind, to keep it’s generational house in order. But every community’s success in the new year will depend on its being able to do so.