I know this is a weird title, so before you close out and write me off, please hear me out. Let me preface by saying that it is very important for faith to be passed down from generation to generation. Paul writing to Timothy in his second letter says that he is “reminded of [his] sincere faith, a faith that lived first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice and now, [Paul is] sure, lives in [Timothy]” (2 Tim 1:5, NRSV). As important as it is for parents, grandparents, and other older members of the faith community to pass down faith, it is also equally vital for faith to be passed the other way.
So, rather than speaking of passing faith down in Christianity, why don’t we instead make it our goal to pass faith around.
What do I mean by this? I mean that not only should younger members of the body be learning from the older members, but the other way around. Learning should be happening up and down in ages, as well as side to side. Not only do I believe that young people in the church can teach the older members things, but I also believe that it is biblical, so let me present my reasoning.
The first story I want to look at is when Jesus is left at the temple in Luke 2. Joseph and Mary travel to Jerusalem with Jesus to celebrate Passover. Mary and Joseph left to return to home and forgot Jesus. A common custom of the day was men and women traveled in groups separate and the kids would run back and forth between the two. Mary and Joseph were probably traveling in this manner and each thought the other had Jesus, but this is beside the point. When they realize he is gone, they return to Jerusalem and find him sitting in the Temple among the teachers, listening and asking questions. These teachers were amazed at his wisdom and insight. Jesus was not only learning from the teachers and asking questions, but they were also listening and learning from Jesus. Before you simply throw out this example and write it off as being Jesus, so it is a special occasion that does not count, let me share another two examples.
These two examples I am going to couple together because of their similarities. The first is Jesus’ 12 disciples. Scholars widely agree that Jesus’ disciples were like teens or young adults when they left their lives to follow Jesus. Three years later, Jesus gives them the Great Commission to go out to the world and they are still at latest in their mid-20’s. Yet, as young as these men were in a society where the elderly were seen as wise and youthfulness was ignorance and foolishness. And these young men were the 12 who went out and spread the message of Jesus to the world. In similar fashion, we see Timothy sent out as a young man by Paul to lead believers.
If these young people were capable of leading and teaching the older believers, why do we not take time to learn from the younger people in our congregations? As the body of believers, our older members should be walking shoulder to shoulder with the youth and young adults in the congregation. Be willing not only to teach and impart wisdom, but also listen and learn from them.