Adolescence. We have all been through it. You know, the time when you have lived through nothing but know everything? The time when you have more pimples than purpose? The time when you have more recreation than responsibility? The time when your parents were clueless and your peers were crafty? Yeah, you know the time. We all lived through it. In fact, I think we have all lived through it twice.
Twice? Are you serious? What kind of a cruel joke would it be to make someone relive 13-16 again? I mean seriously . . . there are many moments from those years I wish I could just cover with white out and move on. Why would anyone want to live through those years again? When I say we have lived through adolescence twice, I do not mean that we have grown up physically twice . . . but I do mean that as “born again” Christians, we have gone through a second “spiritual adolescence” at some point in our lives.
Spiritual adolescence. We have all been through it. You know, the time when you lived through very little spiritually speaking, but know everything? The time when you have more opinions than wisdom? The time when those who walked with God for many years have “lost their fire” (in your estimation) while your campus group is the only one who is “doing the Christian life right?” Yeah, you know the time. If we are honest and self-aware enough, most of us have gone through a phase of our Christian life where we thought we knew it all. In 1995 that was me. Today, 15 years later, I am amazed at what I do not know. God, the Christian life, and ministry are simply too big to be totally figured out on a weekend retreat. It takes a moment for someone to become a Christian, but it takes time and experience to go from a spiritual babe to a man or woman of God.
I was thinking about that today as I read 1 Peter 5:5. Peter encourages all young people in these verses to “be submissive to those who are older.” What is Peter getting at here? Is he indicating that old people are more righteous than young people? No, in Christ all are declared righteous and totally forgiven of their sins. Is he indicating that old people are more valuable? No, Jesus died for all people . . . no one is more valuable than anyone else. Peter writes to the early church and encourages its younger members to be submissive to its older members because there is wisdom with age. This wisdom cannot be learned through reading books alone, it is learned on the pages of real life. Walking with God while living life creates a depth of character, wisdom, and insight that cannot be microwaved. Because of this truth, Peter wants young people to submit to those who are further along than them because they have wisdom that young people need.
Like a teenager who learns how wise their parents were (after he turns 26), so “adolescent” believers learn how wise their elders are after they have weathered a few storms of their own.
I am writing this letter today as someone who sits squarely between two worlds. Around many in the church, I am the young guy . . . a nearly 37 year old dude who has yet to figure a lot of stuff out. Around youth and college students (much to my chagrin) I am becoming one of the old guys . . . having lived through enough decades to have a different perspective than just a twitter account and a facebook page. Being in this place gives me reason to apply this passage in two directions. If you are a “young person” be careful to not fall into the trap that “you are the only one doing it right.” Clothe yourself with humility and listen to the perspective of those further along than you. If you are an “elder,” live a life that is worthy of respect. Don’t just place your life in cruise control and coast into apathy. Continue to walk with God and trust Him on a daily basis. Be willing to share your life experience with younger men and women so that they can learn from the wisdom God has taught you over years of living.
Let’s all age well in the Lord together. After all adolescence is hard to go through . . . both times.