Gap, lapse, or shift?
Well, yes, there is the generational thing. What pushed my buttons in 1965 aren't the hot topics of Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers or the Millennials, Boomlets or rug rats. The clock keeps ticking and fallen humans continue to discover defining moments that make us look at life from different angles than those who went before us. Solomon was right, there's really nothing new in it. But, it's no longer dressed in bell-bottom hip huggers and at least gives a new appearance under the sun.
There were always, however, timeless, unchanging truths that were passed along from one generation to another. They were the ties that bind people, the shared values and mores that linked us to the long line of generations who cut the paths and blazed the trails of progress. You know, stuff like---one nation under God, e pluribus unum, the flag of the United States of America, the Pledge of Allegiance, The Ten Commandments, The Holy Bible, marriage and the family unit, The Star Spangled Banner, mom and apple pie, the boys of summer, home of the free and land of the brave, Plymouth Rock, and God bless America, to name a few.
Suddenly, they're gone. Many on-the-street interviews confirm our loss of basic traditional milestones and values. Several much publicized Fourth of July interviews revealed just how little Americans know about our history or the undergirding principles that created the American epoch. Even more, few younger Americans could identify basic, simple Bible events or people when questioned. I mean, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren't Apostles, do you think?
So, what happened? Well, there's an interesting parallel in Judges 2. Here's the way the historian recorded a significant turning point in the history of Israel---
And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years.
And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in
the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers.
And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the
work that he had done for Israel.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord...
Judges 2:8-11, ESV
Oops. One generation didn't tell the next. Everything they believed was lost in just one generation. I've asked over and over again, was it a communication gap, a communication lapse, or a shift in values? Was it because one generation couldn't speak the language of another, because the older generation forgot to tell them, or because what had been important back then was no longer important now? You know, gap, lapse, or shift.
In the case of Israel occupying the Promised Land it was more basic. They were disobedient. Israel had been instructed to "...teach them diligently to your children " (Deuteronomy 6:7). Even more, they had been told to drive out the inhabitants of the land but failed to do so (see Judges 1). There wasn't a communication or generation gap or even a laspe in their memory. There was a shift in values and they failed to do what had been commanded.
We're prone to excuses and would like to blame the loss of national identity on many factors. Underneath them all, however, is a basic disobedience that we cannot blame on the times, the complicated communication priorities as illustrated in the picture above, or even human forgetfulness. The builders and boomers have become so entangled in our own life processes we've chosen to ignore the generational hand-off that is necessary for the preservation of the ancient landmarks that establish us a a unique nation.
Psalm 78 is a primer in generational process. King David wrote---
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:1-4, ESV
More to the point, when Peter and john appeared before the Jerusalem Council they said,
"...we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard".
Acts 4:20, ESV
His truth must be spoken, and it must be spoken to the next generation in our household first. It is the way truth is transmitted from one generation to another.
Eight or ten years ago Harriet and I were convicted about how we had failed to tell our children about his hand in our lives. So, we told them to meet us at Atlanta Bread Company in Charleston one Saturday morning so we could tell them what was really important to us. It was an incredible morning where we told them his story, our values, and those eternal matters that had sustained us. That day Elizabeth and Brian thanked us for sharing these important, unchanging truths that had guided us.
Of course, they had to choose their own paths, and we rejoice in their faith and commitment to the traditional values that we had tried to live in front of them. The very next day I preached on the Judges 2 passage and challenged our congregation to have a similar session with the next generation in their lives.
The younger ones could reject what we told them and choose another path. But, at least we told them. So, today, write it, place a phone call, send an e-mail or a text. Just tell them.
My prayer is---
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Psalm 71:18, ESV