“…He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” [Malachi 4:6]
“He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.” [Luke 1:16]
These two verses, despite using family language, aren’t really about families, per se. Rather, they are about the family of God. That is, they refer to the church as she is spread out over the generations of those whom God has called to saving faith.
These scriptures observe something that we intuitively know to be true: wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). More than that, wisdom often accompanies age, although not always.
Simply this, wisdom is regularly derived through suffering, which (most often) comes across a long life. To be sure, there are children who have suffered gravely.
Yet most of us find that we only really begin to learn from suffering as we age. When the young suffer they often believe that it is the exception rather than the rule. Suffering is, for the young, seen as the something to be gotten over and moved beyond.
As we age we realize that pain is a constant companion, though rarely in the same form. And it is pain that holds a mirror to our faces and shows us what we already know: that we are but dust, and we need a savior.
It is rare for a young person to be deeply interested in the things of God, since the things that ordinarily drive us to God have yet to come into their lives.
These Scriptures remind us that when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, all generations will be united in truthful and faithful worship of God.
They’re not necessarily an indictment of youth; each generations has its own idols, its own peculiar generational temptations.
The younger generations—the children, if you will—no nothing other than “now.” By definition, they have not experienced the 50s, 60s, 70, 80s, and 90s. The now is all there is and all that they can conceive of.
The older generations—the parents, if you will—have experienced times other than this moment, times that felt more like their moment. They grieve the memory of what felt like “their moment.”
Both of these things remind us that no generation is holier than another—in the words of Paul, “both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one…’” (Romans 3:10)
More than anything else, those who are younger than us need the faith of their fathers. In his letter to the Romans Paul points out:
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
We have the opportunity to be the messenger who delivers the good news that we can be spared from the wrath of God, and be reconciled through Christ.
It’s important, however, that we keep the Christian life straightforward and not make it overly complicated. God has given us means by which He will work in our lives by which we grow as Christians: the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many things to which God would have dedicate our time, talents, and attention. The problem is that we often neglect these means of grace and so our giving often proceeds from an insecure foundation.
As I consider legacy, I start with a life lived coram deo–in the presence of God.