Posted by: rogermitchell | September 11, 2018

Activating love for the rising generation

It’s been a long time – 6 months – since I last posted. So a big thank you to all that have continued to visit and make use of the mass of material that can be found here! The reason for the long break has been my engagement as guest editor of the Taylor and Francis (Routledge) published academic Global Discourse Journal. The special edition that I have edited is on “Cultivating New Post-secular Political Space” and should be available online over the next month or so. It consists of 6 great articles and responses and I will include a link on the blog as soon as it’s available.

In the meantime I’m back blogging, with this post for the forthcoming conference on Parenting for a Sustainable Future that my friends at Liberty Church, Tottenham are hosting from September 21st -23rd. I can’t be there myself due to prior engagements, but they have asked me to prepare the following brief paper.

 

Activating love for the rising generation

People filled with love don’t hate or hurt themselves or other people, so the challenge is to get our youth filled with love. The testimony of Jesus is full of wisdom about this. In this brief paper I look at and apply four particular parts of the story.

Firstly, I believe it is very significant that the background narrative to the whole story of Jesus begins with two women, Mary and Elizabeth. We often bemoan the lack of good fathers.  Of course they are important, but the problem with a lot of fathering today, right across the classes, races and cultures, is that it is too often a combination of heavy handed discipline and absence. So rather than beginning there, I suggest we begin with learning from and supporting the women, mothers and aunts who actively love their own offspring and fellows and girls generally. This is where the Jesus story begins. We don’t hear a lot about Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, or Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband. Despite his prayers, the latter was so slow off the mark he couldn’t believe that they were being answered so Elizabeth had to take over anyway! The two main things about this pair of women were that despite her own youthfulness, Mary overcame her fears and believed she could help bring about a new kind of humanity in her generation with God’s help and Elizabeth was quick to believe in God and her niece and be alongside her as much as possible. Let’s look out for and encourage women like this pair as much as possible. You can read more about the impact of women in bringing about healthy social change through love in the chapters written by my wife Sue and colleague Julie Tomlin Arram in the book Discovering Kenarchy (Wipf & Stock, 2014).

Secondly, we need the kind of political values that Elizabeth’s son, Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist, called for. When the crowds asked him what real change for the good looked like, he came back to the them in no uncertain terms. It meant wealth redistribution (Luke 3:11), fair taxation (Luke 3:13), and military justice (Luke 3:14). Jesus fulfilled this. He advocated radical giving; “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either” (Luke 6:29-30). He encouraged preferencing the poor; “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much'”(Luke 19:8). He called for enemy love; “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Our youth need their significant others in school, sport, music, media, politics, church and so on to live by and promote these kinds of politics instead of the individualist, selfish and exclusive behaviour of the economic and political establishment under whose norms they are currently growing up.

Thirdly, we need a move to relational, servant-hearted leadership among the people that was so typical of Jesus. One that gives clear direction without domination and above all that is marked by a real love for people and the desire to spend time with them. When Jesus appointed the apostles, Luke tells us they were those who he desired. He called them up onto a mountain to spend time with them and then came down with them onto a level place among the people. From the very beginning he had identified and welcomed a core of relationships based on recognising the unique contribution of each individual to the whole. When his disciples first saw this they wanted to know him and he invited them to “come and see” what he was like (John 1:39). The tragedy of a society like ours, where dysfunction and self interest has been the norm for generations, is a context of suspicion and fear of abuse in which close relationships between pupils and teachers, youth and adults are frowned upon and discouraged. We must find a way where the necessary safeguarding measures are in place but the opportunity for strong relationships can be built across the generations where love for others that promotes all round wellbeing can be experienced on an ongoing day-to-day basis.

Finally, we must rediscover and pass on to the rising generation the power of love that ultimately brings about real change. The story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man illustrates this well (Mark 10: 17-27). The youngster embodies all that is mistakenly honoured by the authorities of the day that Jesus came to challenge. The young man fitted their economic, educational and religious norms. He was clearly healthy, wealthy, well-educated and law-abiding. But he lacked certainty and confidence about the future. Hence his famous question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus knew that the whole contemporary system was built on sand. This pretentious fellow was missing the foundational authority of love, the only present way of life that can provide hope for the future for everyone. Jesus knew that authority. So “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him” (Mark 10:21) and that look changed everything. It cut through to the false foundation that left him, as so many of our youth today, filled with fear and uncertainty and hurting themselves and others around them. In his case it changed his whole demeanour. Nevertheless he went away sorrowful, because love can’t be forced, and he wasn’t yet ready to change. But this moved Jesus to expose the destructiveness of a society which like our own was based on the primary values of wealth and possessions. Without the authority of love, the society of Jesus’ day crucified Jesus out of the same pain, fear and anger that leads to the violence against themselves and others that typifies the lives of some of the rising generation on our streets today. Thankfully not all of them. The statistics give us cause for hope, for although a representative sample of UK adults most commonly selected ‘selfish’ (29 per cent), ‘lazy’ (27 per cent) and ‘anti-social’ (27 per cent) as terms to describe young people today, when young people themselves were asked to consider a series of statements that could be used to describe them, 84 per cent selected ‘I want to help other people’ and 68 per cent told YouGov that they had participated in volunteering or other forms of social action in the last year. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/26562. With loving leadership our youth can be the very ones who transform our borough, our city and our contemporary society.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Mismeret's Blog and commented:
    Practical suggestions for an outworkibg of kingdom government…


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