Should There Be a Generation Gap in the Christian Home?
“Quit being fashioned after this system of things.”—Rom. 12:2.
1. What do news reports and various authorities have to say about a widespread generation gap?
“WHAT struck me during my last visits to America,” said historian Arnold Toynbee, “was the widening gap between the rising generation and their parents’ generation.” Such reference to the generation gap is not uncommon in the news today. The generation gap is more than a figure of speech. It is a cold, hard fact of this system of things. It is found not just in North America but in many parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia. “The Generation Gap in Japan,” reported the New York Times, “Is Almost an Abyss.” And a long article in the Soviet Communist newspaper Pravda noted that the generation gap is a major problem of Soviet society. Social scientist Margaret Mead speaks of a “deep, new, unprecedented world-wide generation gap.”
2, 3. (a) What is the generation gap? (b) Should there be a generation gap in the Christian home? Why?
2 Just what is this gap? It is a gap or breakdown in communication and understanding between youths and adults. Many youths feel that adults have made a miserable world and that there must be a better way and that they must find it. Often these youths rebel against anything the older generation likes or stands for. Older people, on the other hand, tend to feel that many youths are irresponsible, spoiled, selfish and ungrateful. The gap thus represents a wide difference in thinking between two generations.
3 World wide though this gap may be, what about Christian homes? Just because this system of things has an appalling generation gap, should there be the same gap in the Christian home? Well, are true Christians part of the world? Jesus Christ made it very clear that Christians should be “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) So if you are a true Christian, whether young or old, you want “no part” of this generation gap in your home, do you?
4, 5. (a) What dangers are there for young Christians, and so what counsel do they need to heed? (b) What important question now arises?
4 But we have to face the fact that Christian youths, as well as adults, can be influenced by worldly people around them. Worldly thinking can be adopted, and, if a person is not on guard, he can be fashioned by this system of things. The danger for Christians is there, and it can be a real battle. It is not to be minimized. It is a struggle against worldly ideas, goals and ambitions and against imitating worldly people, whether young or old. Young Christians especially need to heed the words of the Christian apostle Paul, who warned: “Do not imitate the way of this world.”—Rom. 12:2, Lamsa translation.
5 Now, how can you Christian youths be helped in this struggle so that you do not become fashioned by the world and end up victims of the generation gap? In seeking an answer to that question, it is good to examine the reasons for this gap.
TREMENDOUS CHANGES A FACTOR
6, 7. What changes have contributed to the generation gap?
6 Tremendous changes and happenings in the last fifty to sixty years are a major reason for the generation gap. At no time before have young people known and experienced such rapid changes. Half a century ago there were still lots of horses and buggies in use, and life was not so rushed. The development of jet airliners has had the effect of shrinking the globe so that travel from one continent to another takes only a few hours. Other technological developments allow men to walk on the moon, and to talk to us as they do so.
7 And there have been stupendous changes in communication as well as in the field of entertainment. The birth of radio and television has occurred in this same period. Both are powerful weapons in the hands of propagandists and specialists in mass psychology. Says long-time Juvenile Court Judge P. Gilliam of Portland, Oregon: “The communications explosion is the major factor in delinquency. In every . . . home is a television set—instant violence all around.” Crime was not the great problem fifty years ago that it is today. Immorality was not so prevalent.
8. How does popular music reflect the generation gap, and what is the Scriptural view of much of such music?
8 Consider, too, the changes in popular music. “Nothing, perhaps, reflects the gap between generations more strikingly than the new music,” said The National Observer. “It echoes all the other manifestations of youth’s rebellion against the established order—the hippie movement, drug use, social protest . . . widespread rejection of religion and moral convention, and chronic aversion to combs, barbers and beauty shops.” Not only is there the loud, pulsating beat, but the lyrics of many rock ’n’ roll songs blaspheme the Creator, pour contempt on parents, preach rebellion, encourage immorality and the use of dangerous drugs. As one song says: “Living for today because tomorrow may never happen.” Thus a large part of rock ’n’ roll stars and their fans share what one writer called a “manic disregard for the future.” This, of course, is the “wisdom” of this old system, which the Bible describes at James 3:15 as “earthly, animal, demonic.”
9. What cannot be concealed from youths, and how do many youths react to present unsatisfactory conditions?
9 So all these changes and happenings have had a profound effect upon youths. Two world wars have plagued this generation, and this fact cannot be concealed from youths. “We have had two world wars—two fatal mistakes—and youth knows it,” said the Philippine’s foreign minister, Carlos P. Romulo. “They want to fashion their own world after their own dreams.” Today’s youths are living more than ever before in what is called “the age of violence,” and this violence continues to reach new peaks. To offset the hatreds of the world, many youths stage what are called “love-ins” or they seek a life of escapism through drugs. They show contempt for the Establishment by following what is called the “new morality,” which is no morality at all. Rebellion against past “standards” of social conduct is the battle cry of many of the world’s young people.
ADULT FAILURE A REASON
10, 11. (a) What is a big reason for the generation gap, as youths themselves see it? (b) What adult attitude toward the Bible has contributed to the generation gap?
10 It is evident to young people that adults in general have failed to set the ideal example for youths. “We see the world as a huge rumble as it swiftly goes by with wars, poverty, prejudice, and the lack of understanding among people and nations,” wrote a fifteen-year-old boy from Texas. In this essay the boy further observes, “We see the huge rat race of arguing people trying to beat their fellow man out. All this builds up, causing unrest between nations and in the home.” Thus adult failure is a big reason for the generation gap.
11 Many adults, for example, though professing to be Christians, have turned away from the Bible; they seldom if ever read it and do not follow its principles. So what incentive, even to look into the Bible, do such parents give their children? Moreover, the youths hear clergymen of all kinds of religious denominations downgrade the Bible, speak of it as “myth,” and so forth. As historian Arnold Toynbee said: “In the past, we were told what the truth was. ‘This is the Bible, this is the truth about God and the world.’ Now, we don’t know the truth about the most important things. Children are going to question things because their parents question things.”—Look, March 18, 1969.
12. What did a seventeen-year-old student say about the present adult generation and its worldly religion, and how does this relate to the generation gap?
12 The hypocrisy of many adults is what troubles so many youths. A seventeen-year-old high-school honor student commented on this worldly society. Writing in the Chicago Tribune of April 26, 1970, this teenager said, under the heading “Voice of Youth”:
“Teen-agers easily see thru the double standards of their elders. Six days a week they see them directly or indirectly covet, lie, steal, and worship a false god, the almighty dollar. Then, come Sunday or Saturday, these same people suddenly become thoughtful for an hour or so while attending religious services. The remainder of the day they continue hypocritical ways. . . . Sometimes parents don’t even try to hide the fact they belong to a religious group only for the social prestige or to avoid disapproval of peers. Teen doubts about religion also stem from general observations. The vast array of religious organizations with so many opposing and contradicting views, each claiming to be the chosen church, makes a teen from even the most religious background think twice about the value of pursuing a religious life.”
The hypocrisy and contradictions of worldly religion thus do not escape notice by teen-agers, and this failure of religion and of the adult generation widens the gap between older persons and youths. Youths of the world, in seeing these things, take off in a different direction, seeking a better way of life.
13. (a) How does a young movie starlet describe the present-day generation gap, and so what joy is being missed? (b) In going their own way, have youths found the happiness they seek, and what about hope in the future?
13 But in going their own way and seeking something different, have youths found the happiness they seek? Not really, and in widening the generation gap they miss out on the joy of communicating with their parents. The gulf between parents and youths has widened to the point where, in many families, it seems impossible to build a bridge of communication between the two generations. As one twenty-two-year-old Hollywood starlet said: “It’s hopeless now between my parents and me. . . . We still communicate, but we have to censor things. . . . It’s just that there’s an incredible gap, and they think my generation is crazy.” But we ask: What does this starlet and others like her have with their “free love” and different view of things? Do they have peace of mind with contentment? Do they have hope in the future? That same girl says: “Today I am terrified at the thought of being thirty. The thought of age, and even more the thought of dying, overwhelms me. And because I’m not religious, I have nothing to cling to when death comes.” Does this sound like the way of happiness?
14, 15. (a) What different view of the future do Christian youths have, and what different conclusions do they draw? (b) For a grand future, what must Christian youths avoid, this requiring what struggle?
14 How different it is with a Christian youth, for he has the hope of living forever in God’s new order of righteousness! (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3-5) He is not terrified at the thought of being thirty years old! Why should he be? He has the hope of an eternity of time ahead of him, if he obeys his Creator now and continues to do so. (Eccl. 12:1, 13; Titus 1:2) Moreover, he can see the hypocrisy of the materialistic way of life that the adults of this world have created for themselves. But a Christian must draw different conclusions than do the youths of the world. He knows that the “love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things” and that many persons have “stabbed themselves all over with many pains” by loving money and the things it will buy. (1 Tim. 6:10) He also abhors hatred and violence, and he shows it by unselfishly doing good to others, even loving his enemies, and not by selfish gratification of his own sensual appetites.—Gal. 6:10; Matt. 5:44; Col. 3:5.
15 So for Christian youths there will be a grand tomorrow if they avoid “the spirit of the world” and its generation gap! (1 Cor. 2:12) However, it means a tremendous struggle for young people. They have to put up a real battle against tendencies, temptations, enticements, allurements and pressures that their parents may never have had when they were young. More than ever before it is necessary to “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.”—Jude 3.
16, 17. (a) Upon whom does a great responsibility rest for avoiding the generation gap? (b) How should Christian youths think on matters so as to avoid a generation gap and its disastrous results?
16 Actually a great responsibility for avoiding the generation gap in the home rests on youths. How, then, will you who are Christian youths discharge this responsibility? First of all, do what the apostle Paul says at Romans 12:2: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This has to do with how you think on matters. What is your attitude toward materialism? What do you think about the use of drugs for “kicks” or as an escape from the troubles of the world? What do you think of the immorality and promiscuousness of modern society? What do you think of the music and entertainment sought after by youths of the world?
17 You must not, you cannot, think on these matters as adults and youths think who are part of this wicked system of things. The way we act starts with how we think. “Quit being fashioned [in your thinking] after this system of things.” Resist worldly thinking and pressures: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” (Rom. 12:2, J. B. Phillips’ translation) Fashioning your thinking by the Word of God is the most important step if you will keep yourself in line with the “acceptable and perfect will of God” and avoid a generation gap.—1 Pet. 1:14-16; Eph. 4:22-24.
18. What good counsel should young people follow if they wish to have success?
18 You young people who want to do the will of God should cultivate a love for God’s Word the Bible. Study it, ponder over what it says, treasure up its truths, obey its commandments and live by its principles of righteousness. Do what Proverbs 3:5-7 says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” What does it mean to ‘take notice of Jehovah’ in all your ways? It means to acknowledge Jehovah, especially by doing what he says we should do, to follow his ways. If you do that, he will direct and guide your paths and you will have good success and enjoy divine favor.
19. What should be the Christian youth’s attitude toward the evils of this worldly system?
19 Following that good advice, you will not become rebellious because of the many evils of this present system of things. You well know that this wicked system of things cannot be reformed, so there is no need to become heated up in anger and engage in violent protest. To the contrary, listen to and follow the wise counsel of Psalm 37:8, 9: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”
BENEFIT FROM THE OLDER ONES IN GOD’S ORGANIZATION
20. What should be the attitude of Christian youths toward their parents ‘in the Lord’ and the older men in God’s organization?
20 Are you young folks among “those hoping in Jehovah,” and who will shortly now be “the ones that will possess the earth”? If so, there is another Bible commandment you must not overlook. At Ephesians 6:2, 3 Christian youths are told: “‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’” Especially is this important if your father and mother are dedicated, baptized followers of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, for then they are part of that large adult segment of God’s organization to whom 1 Peter 5:5 refers when it says: “You younger men, be in subjection to the older men.” The principle is also stated at Leviticus 19:32: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man.”
21. How and why can Christian youths benefit from older ones in God’s organization?
21 Here, then, is a basic Bible truth that applies both to you younger ones and to you older ones if you believe the Bible. There must not be a generation gap between you, as there is in the world. You youths should put real confidence in these adults in the Christian congregation, especially the “older men” or elders. Like many of you, they too are dedicated servants of the Most High God. The main difference is that they have many more years of experience—experience from which you can profit, if only you will ask them for their advice and counsel. If you have never repaired an auto you can certainly learn a lot from the oldtimer who has spent much of his life as a mechanic. If you have never made a dress, you can avoid many pitfalls and learn the shortcuts to success as a seamstress from a mother who has made the family’s clothes for many years. Profit by the experience of older ones, who have a more balanced outlook on life. Their experience has changed their sense of values. The older folks were young once; they know what that is like. But you younger ones have never been old yet and so you know nothing of the outlook on life that comes with older years. So appreciate the benefit that comes from those with older years.
22. What worldly attitude makes many youths victims of the generation gap, and so how can Christian youths avoid tragedy?
22 Some worldly young folks today say they are willing to talk to people over thirty years of age, but only if the older ones refrain from giving advice. It is this spirit that makes many youths victims of the generation gap. But you Christian youths, do not be that way. Do not resent helpful advice, just because you did not ask for it! Sometimes we do not know that we need counsel. At a time like that it is most helpful when some mature one kindly speaks up and offers it to us. It can save us heartaches if we listen to counsel. Tragedy can often be avoided.—Prov. 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:31-33.
23. What mistake do many young people make when it comes to seeking advice, and what Bible example shows the unwisdom of this course?
23 Often young people go to their youthful companions and seek their advice and counsel, ignoring what their parents and older men who are Christians say. Such youths remind one of young King Rehoboam. You can read about him in First Kings, chapter twelve. After the death of his father Solomon, Rehoboam asked for, but then ignored, the advice of the older men who had been advisers and counselors to his father. Rehoboam also went to the young men with whom he grew up and asked their counsel and advice. They offered him bad advice and encouraged him to take a harsh, unkind course of action. The result? In following the advice of the younger persons instead of the older men, King Rehoboam lost five sixths of his kingdom, and he had nothing but sorrow and trouble the rest of his life.
24, 25. (a) What Christian youth of the first century gladly accepted good counsel from an older man? (b) Why should Christian youths work hard at avoiding the generation gap?
24 On the other hand, there was an older man, the apostle Paul, who did not hesitate to give the young man Timothy good counsel, which he gladly accepted and from which he greatly benefited. How many of you Christian youths are Timothys at heart?—1 Tim. 4:12-16.
25 So all you young people, benefit from the good counsel of the mature ones who are Jehovah’s witnesses. Work hard at avoiding the generation gap and becoming victims of it. Being a victim means only disappointment and death. The apostle John wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
26, 27. What are the rewards for avoiding the generation gap, and what question now needs to be considered?
26 Do you want to remain forever? Of course you do! Then do the will of God. Stick close to his Word and his organization of dedicated, baptized people. And think of the rewards that can be yours if you avoid the generation gap! Right now you can enjoy many happy experiences if only you will reach out and seize hold of the theocratic privileges being extended to Christian youths. And in the future? Well, Proverbs 3:1, 2 says: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.”
27 Parents, however, can do much to prevent a generation gap from arising in the first place. The following article will help them to discharge their responsibility to the rising generation.
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Influences such as these—all of them developments in recent decades—are a major cause of the generation gap
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Young folks see the hypocrisy of those who pretend to be religious one day of the week and who gossip and cheat at other times