Did you ever notice that most of the pictures of biblical characters seem to be old guys? Yet, some of the most transformational folks in all of God’s story were young people. Mary the unwed, pregnant teen who gave birth to Jesus; David, the red-haired runt who slayed a giant, played the harp and served as King; Timothy, Ruth, Joseph, Esther and the list goes on of young folks whom God grabbed hold of and changed the world.
I’ve talked several times in recent days with my 17 year old about the US Constitution’s mandate that Presidential candidates be at least 35 years of age. Shoot, Jesus didn’t even live to be that old. Somehow, our two major party candidates in this election were twice that age. So how does that picture contrast with what we find in scripture?
Well, modern American political culture and too often church culture too, loves to tell youth to wait. Just stick around and you’ll get your chance. Yet, you and I both know that if you have to stand in line long enough you eventually bail on the endeavor and hop out of line. I sure don’t want to see that happening in the faith journey of my teenagers or any young people. I fully understand that waiting is part of the journey, I mean that’s what Advent is all about after all. Yet, waiting is only part.
Scripture shows us that while God can use wrinkly old folks to bring about his Kingdom, God also chooses to set the world on fire with the sparks of youthful lives given to Him. I can’t recount a biblical story that says, “I am so thankful for your zeal and passion, but please come back at 35.” God is ready to change our churches and our world through our young people. Most youth groups with whom I’ve worked seem to grasp this. It’s getting the “elders” on board to fan the flames of the young; to learn from and be challenged by youth; and to mentor, guide and cheer on those coming behind them. If we could see our youth as Mary, David, Esther, Timothy, Ruth and Joseph maybe we’d be ready to warm ourselves by their fires now.
I sensed God’s call to serve in pastoral ministry as a teen – and while I’m so thankful for the experience, education and maturation that I’ve had sense then, there are many days I long for that raw passion and exuberance that is found with freshness in our youth. Now as the father of teenagers, I’m so thankful to see that same passion stoked in them. In fact, maybe I should have written one of them in on my ballot!