Don’t try to dig what we all s-s-s-say (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-s-sensation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
–The Who, October 1965
In October of 1965, I had just turned 7 years old and was a first grader at South Elementary in Jal, New Mexico. The Vietnam War was in full swing, Lyndon Johnson was president after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the country was going down the toilet. I knew that because I had heard countless adults say it was so.
“Whatsa matter with these kids today!? Incense and peppermints… hippie beads and sunflower seeds!”
College students were protesting the seemingly endless war, draft-dodgers were streaming into Canada, and the hippies in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco were using the same match to light American flags and marijuana cigarettes.
Fast-forward 53 years and now it’s my generation screaming, “Whatsa matter with these kids today?!”
‘Snowflakes’ looking for ‘safe spaces’ to ‘occupy’ on college campuses while they use the same match to light the American flag and their (now legal) marijuana cigarettes. Sure seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Our unity is rooted in Jesus, who tore down the walls of hostility and made us one. Jesus is the One we all have in common.
Our country is divided–politically, for sure. But also divided on almost any other topic of discussion. There is no agreement on immigration, abortion, size of government, or even whether we should stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. There’s gonna be an uproar in a few weeks when one of our Olympic Gold Medalists takes a knee during our national anthem.
In our country today, we have Centennials, Millennials, Gen X’ers, Baby Boomers, and The Greatest Generation. Each generation has its own customs, beliefs, and quirks. How can we survive amidst such generational diversity? Generational differences are apparent in today’s workplace where Boomer bosses are finding that their Millennial employees are rarely willing to put in extra hours or take work home. They constantly need feedback and approval on the job they are doing. Meanwhile, Millennials are at a loss to explain their older bosses’ tendency to reject new ideas and resist change.
Psychologist Constance Patterson has been studying the effects of generational diversity in the workplace. She has discovered that “a lack of understanding across generations can have detrimental effects on communication and working relationships and undermine effective services.” We could say the same thing about churches.
Churches don’t have the luxury of targeting a specific generation because God wants everybody. He is willing that NONE should perish–but that ALL would come to repentance. The multi-generational make-up of churches can be a big problem for churches when it comes to unity. How in the world are an 85 year-old and a 26 year-old going to agree on anything when they are so generationally different?
Well, Paul would say, “Make an effort!” And don’t just make AN effort, but “make EVERY effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This is why verse 2 comes before verse 3. Maintaining the unity in our churches is going to require heavy doses of humility, gentleness, patience, and love.
We must make every effort to not just acknowledge our differences, but to understand them. Acknowledging differences is simple. Understanding differences is hard. And when it comes to understanding our differences, effort is spelled T-I-M-E. We must take the time to understand each other.
But we must also come to recognize our greatest commonality–and His name is Jesus. Jesus creates unity regardless of our differences. And we’re really different. We communicate differently. We learn differently. We have different worship preferences. But our unity is not rooted in these things. Our unity is rooted in Jesus. It is Jesus who tore down down the walls of hostility and made us one.
He’s our unity. He is who we have in common. Our allegiance is to Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We are united in our common desire is to see his name glorified and His story spread. On that, we can unite. And Jesus will teach us, if we’ll just watch and listen. He’ll teach us how to live in unity despite our differences.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).