The Multigenerational Church (1 John 2:12-14)

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The church is (and ought to be) a multigenerational community. Unfortunately, powerful forces in our society tend to pull the generations apart. But the gospel has a unique power to bring them back together again.
What are some of the powerful social forces that pull the generations apart?
The first is space. Many people don’t live near their extended families. They are cut off from day-to-day relationships with their grandparents, parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Instead, they live in suburban neighborhoods where most of the people are strangers who occupy the same demographic niche as they do.
The second is time. Americans are very busy people. Between working itself and commuting to and from work, many people have little time for leisure. But that’s what multigenerational family time is: leisure time.
The third is desire. Marketing experts spend billions of dollars to create niche markets for their products, especially their media products. In the heyday of primetime television programming, the entire family could sit down to watch Ozzie & Harriet, Little House on the Prairie, or The Cosby Show. Now, however, television shows are narrowly marketed to the generations. Would you really want to watch The OC with your grandmother?
The fourth is style. Different generations dress differently, talk differently, listen to different music, and communicate differently. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but older adults don’t like loud music, and younger adults can’t seem to go without blaring their car stereos and iPods all day long.
As Christians, we are subject to these social forces as well. But the gospel is a spiritual force around which we can all unite. In 1 John 2:12-14, John addresses all his readers as “children,” but then he distinguishes between them based on their ages as “fathers” and “young men.”
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
What are the spiritual forces that unite us? First, all of us are sinners whose sins God has forgiven because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The next time you want to complain about the crotchety old guy in the pew in front of you or the disrespectful teenager wearing shorts to church, remember: Christ died for that person.
Second, all of us need to exercise faith in Christ for salvation. Sometimes, older Christians forget their initial enthusiasm for following Christ. That’s why John reminds them about the importance of knowing “him who is from the beginning.”
And third, all of us need to make progress in holiness. We need to “overcome the evil one” by obedience to “the word of God.” Sometimes, younger Christians think the Christian life is easy. That’s why John reminds them it’s an overcoming lifestyle.
Salvation, faith, and holiness: These bind all Christians together, regardless of their age.

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