I have had the opportunity to attend a Christian church over the last few years that is composed of predominantly young adults often labelled as Millennials. People my age (middle of the spectrum) probably represent less than 5 percent of the congregation. Sometimes, that makes me feel old and out-of-touch with the Millennial specific cultural norms. Yet, regardless of generational and cultural differences, I think it is important to listen to the younger generation – truly listen. When different generations collide together without some intrinsic principles of tolerance and respect for one another, polarization and division is often the end result. One of the underlying principles of our young and rather exuberant church community can be summarized as follows:
We will be known for what we are FOR rather than what we are AGAINST.
Essentially, what that means to me is that we will be known as people who love God and love each other rather than what we oppose. Pretty simple stuff, yet for each one of us, it necessitates a trial and error PROCESS of living out our faith from day-to-day.
It would be an injustice to claim that rather imperfect people, from widely different age-groups, and equally variable social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, can mesh together flawlessly at all times. Living under the banner of love for God and love for each other is merely the beginning of a life-long journey for most. If one expects everyone to be in perfect harmony right at the onset, and requires that relationships work like clockwork – they will be end up being disappointed.
True love for others cannot be scripted. All relationships take time to grow and develop to fruition. Our love for God is but a faint reflection of his boundless love for us, and is demonstrated by our love for one another.
Someone once said that life is where the rubber meets the road. As a road cyclist, I can understand that metaphor quite well. A bicycle tire is pumped up to a considerably high pressure, three times that of an automobile tire. The contact patch of the bike tire on the pavement is actually quite small [about one square inch (2.54 cm squared) in a rather elongated pattern], and yet we still experience the effects of friction and resistance that slightly impedes our forward progress. The rougher the road surface, the greater the resistance. Loving God and loving others is like that – there always seems to be a little friction and resistance going on, but we are still moving forward. Somewhere along our journey together we hit a rough patch, and things get much more difficult.
May I suggest that this is where mutual acceptance and forgiveness comes in to play. We all make mistakes and sometimes we really mess things up. As a result of this, it is quite natural for human beings to desire a safe place where we can be loved, accepted, and forgiven for our inherent faults, character weaknesses, tendency towards selfishness, and so forth. The theologically educated will notice that I did not immediately use the word SIN. The Greek word hamartia, translated into the English word “sin”, essentially means to miss the mark (as in archery) and/or to intentionally miss the mark or standard that God intended for us.
Historically, I think that the concept of a family unit was intended to fulfill that need for a safe place in the context of a larger society. Unfortunately, for many of us in North American society, that ideal did not necessarily work out so well. The seemingly endless cycle of broken relationships and high rates of divorce has deeply affected generation upon generation of young people and adults alike. For better or for worse, this is our story.
Millennials understand the concept of a SAFE PLACE. They practically invented the idea on our university campuses throughout North America. The difference, however, between a predominantly secular humanist notion of a safe place and a Christian concept of a safe place is literally worlds apart. The former emphasizes shutting out even the abstraction of a personal God and any person(s) who holds to a worldview that contradicts their own, the latter is far more inclusive and tolerant of opposing ideas and welcomes God, as we understand him, into the conversation.
How do I know that? By my own life experience. I want to be loved, accepted, and forgiven like anyone else. To be respected as a person who has inherent value as a human being is something we all want.
As for me, I have chosen to hang out with a bunch of Millennials that have often been the brunt of a whole lot of stereotyping and criticism by my generation. I feel that I am an ordinary person living in an extraordinary time in human history. Our little church community is just a minuscule part of something much bigger than all of us. It’s an honour to experience that together.
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