I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear someone bring up the topic of young people in today’s world, there is almost always a negative connotation applied to the conversation. There is rarely a noteworthy story of teens or pre-teens doing something wonderful in the community, but the evening news is riddled with reports of youth doing horrible, unspeakable acts of violence and perversion. The mainstream media would have you believe that all young people today are carbon copies of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Likewise, the world would persuade you to lump sum this group that makes up nearly fifteen percent of the U.S. population into a league of miscreants leading lives where immorality abounds. Is this the truth or a distortion of reality? While I will not deny that this world has its fair share of Justins and Mileys, I am completely unwilling to buy into the one size fits all juvenile delinquent stereotype.
I have always been drawn to children of all ages. From early on in my childhood, I had an intense desire to be a mother when I grew up and married Mr. Right. I also decided that I wanted to work with children on a daily basis, so I earned a degree in Education. God blessed me by granting me my petitions. I am now the mother of four and am blessed to work with many children in both my church family and my homeschool group. Due to my close association and interactions with quite a large number of young people, I have been fortunate enough to observe what I feel is their true nature.While I am no expert even by a long shot, I truly believe when it comes to today’s youth, we need to open our eyes to who they really are.
I am afraid that so many times we do not view teens as people. We are quick to judge them, quick to reprimand them, and quick to completely write them off. We dismiss their feelings, ideas, and capabilities. The Apostle Paul did not take this approach with Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:12
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
He understood Timothy, like all young people, had feelings.He also realized that Timothy had the right mind-set and was completely capable of living a life worthy of imitation in the church.
“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.
But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me”
Given due respect and opportunity, it has been my experience, that our youth will rise to the occassion.
2. Young people breathe new life into old situations.
I don’t want to say that all adults tend to be “old fogies”, but the fact that we have the propensity to get into autopilot mode is hard to deny. All too often we get so caught up in everyday living that we become blinded to many things. Young people often have fresh eyes that can more easily detect areas of need, joy, and thanksgiving that their elders may overlook. Not only that, the innocence and newness that they bring to the forefront is a much welcomed breath of fresh air. Just seeing and interacting with young folks is a visible reminder of the newness of life given to us on a daily basis by the Father.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Even our Lord and Savior saw the value of spending time and interacting with young people.
“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”
Never underestimate the new life that can be interjected into any situation by involving youth.
3. Young people can teach us a thing or two! (or three or four!)
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we have all the answers. We really could learn some great things just by observing our young people. They have soft, supple hearts ready to extend love, eager to do the right thing, and extremely penitent when found in the wrong. More often than not it is a young person who responds to the Lord’s invitation. It isn’t necessarily because they sin more, but because they have hearts uncalloused from saying no one too many times.
“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”
Young people also seem much more willing to get outside of their comfort zone. When charged with a task, they do not allow preconceived notions or irrational fears to hold them back. They have the heart of a servant and are very willing to serve with zeal.
“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Most importantly, young people really understand the first great command and the command second to it.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
To learn how to love unconditionally, we would do well to study and emulate our younger counterparts.
1 John 3:18
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
This past weekend I was honored to be in the presence of six thousand people intent on growing closer to the Lord our God. The vast majority of those souls were young people. They were from different states, socioeconomic backgrounds, and circumstances, but they were united in purpose. Believe me, it was an eye opening picture on the state of our youth, to say the least. Let’s all wake up, wipe the dust of misconception out of our eyes and see today’s youth for what they really are.They are what we need to become. What they really are isn’t really so shocking after all.
Photo By Robbie Grubbs from Houston (What????) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons