See if you can figure what generation this is: “The youth are rebellious, pleasure-seeking and irresponsible. They have no respect for their elders. They spend their days in idleness, and their nights pursuing sensual lusts. They have no respect for authority, nor for the traditions of the past.”
Who said it? Plato, in ancient Greece. Why, you would have thought that he was writing about this generation, wouldn’t you?
There has always been a generation gap, and I don’t think that’s too bad. If it weren’t for the enthusiasm of young people coming on, we’d all die of inactivity! But the youth today–I suppose primarily because of mass media and modern education–are probably the most analyzed in history. What are some of the problems they face?
First, there is a lack of purpose. During the Depression and during the Second World War, there was a purpose, and that purpose was to survive, just to get enough to eat. No generation in history has ever had the affluence that our young people have had, and it causes boredom. We just get plain bored with life.
Rebellion is another problem. The Bible teaches that all of us are rebellious. We’ve always been rebellious. Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and their son Cain rebelled. All the way down through history, every generation has rebelled. That’s what sin is. It’s rebellion against God. It’s the breaking of God’s law.
Young people have always been restless and dissatisfied with the conditions of society. Part of it is just growing up. What do young people really want from us as an older generation? I’ll tell you. They want, first of all, to be loved. Jesus looked at a young man who came to Him asking some spiritual questions, and the Scripture says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21). They need love. You see, God has given you the capacity to love and be loved. Without love, life falls to pieces.
A Love Story
The whole Bible is a love story between God and people. God loves you. You can’t pick up the Bible without realizing that God hates sin, and God is going to judge sin. But you cannot pick up the Bible without also realizing that God loves you. The Bible is full of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. When I look at Jesus dying on the cross, I see written in neon letters that the whole world can see, “God Is Love. God Loves You.”
One of the wealthiest men in the world once said, “I’d give anything in the world if I could find somebody that loves me and understands me.” This man had millions, but he couldn’t even find one person to love him. I want to tell you, God loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His Son. The Bible says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us” (1 John 3:1). We’re to love one another in the same way.
The Bible teaches that husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved His disciples. Wives are to love their husbands; children are to love their parents; parents are to love their children. And if we are Christians, we are expected to love each other.
Second, youth want to be recognized as persons. When the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, he said, “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12). They want to be recognized as individuals. Jesus took a little child and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
The disciples were young men, but Jesus did not choose them because of their reputation or their education. He chose them because of their individuality and their individual qualities. I have five children, and every one of them is different. We love all of them the same, and they love us. But each is different.
Many times fathers make the mistake of trying to get their sons to be just like them. Give your children their own identity. Let them make their own decisions concerning life. Influence them, yes. Guide them, yes. Teach them, yes. But remember that they are different from you. They have their own aptitudes, their own gifts, that may be superior to yours.
When it comes to spiritual things, you can lead them just so far. Take them to church, yes, and up until a certain point in their lives, make them go. There was many a Sunday when I was growing up that I didn’t want to go to church, but I was told to go, and I went.
But when I reached a certain age my parents made the wise decision to allow me to make my own choice. There comes a time when you’re an adult, and God holds you responsible as an adult. And you must make your own decision concerning Jesus Christ. You cannot inherit your faith. A personal dynamic encounter with Christ you’ve got to have on your own. And I pray to God that you will find Jesus Christ.
Third, I find that young people want to be trusted. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). Nothing is more provoking to a child than parents who don’t trust him. When the parents have confidence in the child, the child in turn will have confidence in the parents. You’re to advise, counsel, guide, restrain and even discipline. But trust them, and respect their privacy.
I have two sons and three daughters, all adults. I never read a single private letter, nor did my wife, that they received unless they asked us to. Young people need privacy and they need to be trusted.
Fourth, young people want to be accepted. Jesus understood young people. He loved them and He accepted them. He said, “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). You know, the miracle of the Gospel is not that you accept Christ. The miracle is that He accepts you, sins and all. You look at your heart and see the times you’ve lied, the immorality, the lust, the greed. It’s amazing that Jesus would accept you, that He loved you enough to die for you–that He loved me enough to die for me.
Fifth, young people want to be listened to. Many young people tell me, “My parents just won’t listen to me.” Too many times we parents are great on giving advice without hearing the problem. It’s like a doctor prescribing medicine before he has diagnosed the case.
Listen to your teenagers. Millions of young people are crying for help on the inside, but no one hears them. One of the reasons they turn to drugs is to dull the pain of living in a world where nobody listens. Listen to them.
Sixth, young people want their parents to forgive them. We must learn to forgive. There never will be a happy marriage on this earth until people know how to forgive, and the same is true in the relationship between young people and parents. Never hold a grudge. Never let the sun go down on your wrath. Parents, forgive your young people; young people, forgive your parents.
Are you a young person who knows Christ, but your parents don’t know Him? You’ve got a job in your home of living for Christ. I know of one girl who was the only Christian in her home. She prayed and, after about a year, she won her sisters to Christ. She won her mother to Christ and, finally, a few weeks later, she won her father to Christ. “A little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
Parents, don’t ever give up praying for your children. A child will never, never get away from the prayers of a praying mother and a praying father. Believe God. Don’t give up. God will answer many of your prayers, even after you’re dead and gone.
Surprisingly, young people also want authority. They need the security of authority. They need discipline and sometimes chastening. The Bible says, “Whom the Lord loves He chastens” (Hebrews 12:6).
The One Answer
Finally, young people want a faith that they can believe. They need Jesus Christ, because without Jesus Christ there is an emptiness in their life– the purpose and the meaning of life is not clear.
Do you know how to be saved? Do you know how to go to heaven? Christ has already done all the work on the cross. He rose again. He’s alive, willing to forgive you, willing to come into your heart and change you, willing to make you a new person. But what do you have to do? You have to, by faith, receive Him. You have to be willing to repent of your sins and receive Him as Savior. If you are willing to do that, you’ll have a faith to live by and a faith to die by.
Young people want a challenge. They want a flag to follow. I’ll tell you, Christ can provide it all. Jesus Christ has everything young people are talking about today. He has love, peace, discipline, self-denial, challenge. He offers it all. Put your faith and your confidence in Him, and He can change your life.
I am asking you to follow Christ, to serve Him, to let Him come into your heart and forgive you of your sins, to start you in a new direction. I am asking you to receive Him as Lord and Savior.