Youth lends itself to the productive Christian life. We’re active and healthy and have our whole lives in front of us. 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 appear independent. We are good at convincing others (and ourselves) that we are making do on our own. But the truth is that we’re often lonely. In our efforts to remain independent, we have forgotten how to be dependent on a community.
Elderly Christians tend to have a better understanding of their place in the community of believers. They have spent a lifetime walking with God, and their experience has helped them see more clearly who they are and how they fit into Christ’s body.
Many elderly Christians have also spent a long time walking with Jesus. They have been shaped by this relationship and see the results of God’s work in them. They can more clearly see they are broken, sinful, and in need of a savior. They can also see they are loved, redeemed, and moving toward sanctification. By God’s grace this work has been revealed to them; by their living it for years they have become more comfortable in it.
For young Christians, this example shows us how to trust in the Lord. We will not follow their example perfectly every day, or even any day. But then again, neither did earlier examples work out perfectly in the life of your 75-year-old Christian neighbor. God was faithful for them, and he will be faithful to the young who desire to follow him.
When we have a better understanding of who we are in Christ we have a better understanding of how we fit into Christian community. Like our elders, the better we know who we are, the more we rely upon others. This refined sense of self can help us find our place in an interdependent Christian community.
Serve and Be Served
The young Christian who tries so hard to appear independent often does so by serving others. It is often difficult for a young believer to accept service from other members of the body because we feel we ought to help ourselves. In contrast, elderly Christians have lived with God long enough to know that the community has helped them get through this life. Self-knowledge allows them to see not only that they themselves need help but also that they can still help others.
For the young Christian who wants to serve, remember that you have the ability to help an elderly brother or sister in Christ. You can be a helping hand in the kitchen or a friend who takes them to doctor’s appointments. Many needs can bring you to their aide, but remember to stay a bit longer. Listen and watch. The elderly have a lot to offer young Christians. Whether through their words of wisdom or examples of love, do not overlook the ways they can serve you.