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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. - 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
Picture this: a group of twenty-somethings sitting around a brunch table (that was probably hand-carved by a local woodworker), drinking expensive Ethiopian coffee (brewed in a Chemex in the perfect amount of time), wearing crop tops and lace-up boots (they were my aunts in the 60s!), all staring at their smartphones putting the perfect filter on a picture of their (not so) perfect lives… spot the millennials (EYE ROLL). Unfortunately the term ‘millennial’ has become a slur, a word to describe a lazy, trophy wielding, narcissistic, technology-obsessed generation.
Search the term millennial on Amazon, and immediately you see books with titles like: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together and Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials. Chances are you have said the word with a roll in your eyes, whether you were annoyed with your millennial co-worker or your millennial self. The question is, why? Why has it become such a derogatory term? And can we take it back?
Surely God made this generation for a specific purpose, for this time and place. And like every generation before, won’t He equip millennials with exactly what we need to share His message with the world? This week, I want to tap into that. Our Generations series is about the fact that “All of us need each of us.” When we take a closer look, we will see the unique strengths and gifts of the millennials combined with the strengths and talents of the other generations, when put under the authority of an all-knowing God, can have a pretty incredible effect on the world.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)
Facebook came out my freshman year of college. In its early days, people wrote you notes on the tiny notepad on your page and the only picture attached was your one profile pic. Oh, how social media has changed! Now we share video and full photo albums. We can “go live” at any given moment. For the first time in history we are skipping our high school reunions because Instagram already told me about her husband and three kids. As a matter of fact, I saw what her kid did in the bathroom last night…
We are connected to more people than ever before. Our reach is wide. We can keep up with friends across the world as if they lived just down the street. We are truly no longer hemmed in by our neighborhood fences. Millennials bring a full understanding of wide connection, of inclusion, of large circles of friends. We understand the “how wide” part of the love of God. But what about the deep? Have we traded real relationship for digital connection? While millennials are connected to more people than ever before, are our real relationships more shallow?
This is where the older generations come in. My boomer in-laws know the names and daily happenings of every neighbor on their cul-de-sac. They send thank you notes and are there in person when the people they know are hurting. They don’t just send a “get well” text. They show up. They understand the “how deep” of God’s love. It is when we come together - notice the verse above - “with ALL the Lord’s holy people” that we can truly “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” I’ll say it again. All of us need each of us.
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. - Philippians 2:2-4 (NLT)
As we established yesterday, the millennial friendship pool is diverse. Because of the internet, it reaches across continents and crosses cultural and racial divides. With our internet connections and smartphones, we now have the ability to reach beyond the group of people we grew up with. When we meet those outside of our neighborhoods, we have the opportunity to befriend people who are very different than ourselves. This has given us a new perspective on life. When a person with a particular ideology or belief system that is different than our own has a name and a story and a place in our lives, our compassion for them deepens.
Out of our empathy, Millenials have become known as the tolerant generation. But tolerance without basic truth, while compassionate, can also begin to turn toward moral relativism. Millennials are in danger of crafting our own religion. We begin picking and choosing the parts from each ideology we find to be the most palatable and thus we create a hybrid faith. Often times, one that is all grace and no truth. As Christians we are to be imitators of God and have compassion for one another.
In His Word, we see the real empathy Jesus had for the sick, the hurting, and the broken. But He did not leave them to their sin and destruction. He told everyone the whole truth in love. He would heal and say, “Go and sin no more!” Without biblical truth, our compassion will fall flat. We will have no hope to offer the broken world. But our deep empathy and compassion combined with the truth of the gospel will create a thriving church full of the Spirit with wide open doors to the broken and hurting.
Are you practicing spiritual disciplines? One of the best ways you can choose to love your neighbor is by picking up your Bible and soaking up the truth of God’s word. Start a Bible-in-a-year plan today!Share Tweet
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
Along with a greater sense of empathy, millennials gravitate toward activism and social justice. We see other people’s burdens and desire to make a difference. Millennials believe ourselves to be “everyday changemakers,” and we see this particular mindset influence what we buy, the clothes we wear, and even the food we eat. An article I read recently on Philanthropy News Digest said:
“For millennials, doing good is a lifestyle, the norm, and a fundamental part of their identity that is expressed, as often as not, by signing petitions, volunteering for causes, connecting with each other on social media platforms, and acting with their own circles to bring about change.”
This kind of lifestyle can create radical Jesus followers. The only thing is, so many millennials are seeking this change outside of institutions. We have grown up with authority figures who are wrapped in scandal and don’t deliver on their promises. Politics have taken a nosedive and millennials are turned off. We are in desperate need of good authority. Unfortunately, all of the flawed authority figures that have failed us have turned many of us off from any authority at all.
Millennials are pursuing every form of social justice with a deep passion, but we are rejecting a key ingredient in the process. You see, in the kingdom of God, there is acceptance, love, equality, and fairness. But there is also a King. In fact, He is the reason that all of those good things exist in His kingdom. Millennials are pursuing world-change by rejecting authority, when in reality, true world-change is only possible when we accept the protection and provision of the Good King.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - 1 Chronicles 1:4-6 (NIV)
My friend Claire is from Northern Ireland. I met her 10ish years ago on a mission trip, and we quickly became lifelong friends. She does a hilarious impression of Americans. Her favorite phrases to say are “That’s awe-some!” and “Super cool!” I think those phrases are very accurate when it comes to the mindset of the millennial generation. It has been said that we are extremely positive, idealistic even. And as you’ve seen through the past several days of devos, we are a thoroughly passionate generation.
We care about people, and we care about causes. We genuinely believe the world can become a better place. But the question arises, is there purpose behind our passion? Passion for passion’s sake or even passion for politics’ sake, can only take you so far. At the end of the day, human authority fails you, and passion without deep purpose dwindles. Our hope must be in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. He is the one who came with passion, compassion, empathy, and with a mission of social justice. But He also brought authority, truth, and a deep purpose for living. The Jesus Way offers us a full and complete life. Every generation gets parts of it right and parts of it wrong. Perhaps the full way of Christ can be realized and lived out when each generation links hands and offers their strengths to the others.