Youth lends itself to the good Christian life. We look good, we’re athletic and healthy, have our whole lives in front of us, and we love God. We are in control and independent, we need no help to make it through the day.
We are also really good at pretending the above is true.
Young people, myself included, want to do their best to appear independent. We are good at convincing others (and ourselves) that we are making do on our own, but we’re lonely. In our efforts to remain independent, we have forgotten how to be dependent on a community.
The elderly Christian understands community. They have spent a lifetime walking with God and this lifetime of experience has helped them see more clearly who they are and how they fit into a community.
An elderly Christian has spent a long time walking with Jesus. They have been shaped by their Christian relationship and see the results of God’s work in them. They can see who they are. They can see that they are broken, sinful, in need of a savior. They can also see that they are loved, redeemed and improving. By God’s grace this has all been revealed to them. By their age they have become more comfortable in it.
The proper response to this example is for the young Christian to remain in the Lord. It will not work out perfectly every day, or even any day. But then again, it did not work out perfectly in the 75 year old Christian’s life, but God was still faithful and so he will be faithful to the 20 year old that desires to follow Him.
When we have a better understanding of who we are in Christ, we then have a better understanding of how we fit into the Christian community. It is then with this refined sense of self that a Christian community can grow. The more I know who I am, the more I am able to find my role within a community and the more I am able to rely upon others.
With this new found self-knowledge I can better see how I fit into the scheme of things. Just as one gear in a machine works to turn other gears and is also turned by surrounding gears, I find throughout life how I help others and how others help me.
The young Christian that tries so hard to appear independent often does this by being one the one that serves others. It is very difficult for a young Christian to be able to accept service from others because we think that we ought to be able to help ourselves and not need the help of others.
But an elderly Christian has lived with God long enough to know that community is what has gotten them this far in life. Their self-knowledge allows them to see that they do need help, but that they can also help others. This interdependence is what drives a community, and the elderly know how to utilize this the best.
So, to the young Christian who wants to serve, remember that you have the ability to help an elderly brother or sister in Christ. You can simply be of company to an elderly Christian, be a helping hand in the kitchen or a friend that takes them to doctor’s appointments. Many things can bring you to their aide, but remember to stay a bit longer. Listen and watch. The elderly have a lot that they can offer to young Christians, whether it be words of wisdom or examples of love, do not overlook the ways that they can serve you. After all, it is the elderly who has mastered this best of all of us Christians.
They do not see it as their fault if they need help, rather they rejoice when they receive the aide they need. And when they can help, they do so readily.
The young Christian can look to this example and learn to know when they need help and when it is they can help others. Over time this process will become easier and easier because as a young Christian walks with God and sees themselves more clearly they will see how it is that they serve others and are served.
The Christianity of a 75 year old is not much different than the 20 year old’s Christianity. The only difference is that the longer cultivated community is richer in love. As a twenty year old Christian then, strive toward that love that can only come from such a long walk with God. Start by remembering that the 20 year old’s Christian community is the same one as the 75 year old’s.