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We Have Met the Enemy, and He is All Three of Us!

YES! Blogs

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is All Three of Us!

Wes Wick

Have you ever noticed how quick we are to point out the faults of others, and how slow to admit our share of the blame for what's wrong in today's culture?

Take traffic for example. We readily complain about traffic when caught in a traffic jam. Do we realize that we are the traffic everyone else is complaining about?

And, it has become way too predictable on Capitol Hill. Republicans rant about Democrats, and Democrats rant about Republicans. The blame always seems to rest outside of ourselves.

My father-in-law, Don Popineau, was a residential house painter and an active deacon in his church before becoming an ordained minister in his early fifties. He jokingly told a group of pastors, "I've only been a pastor for three weeks, and already I hate deacons!"

Okay, so where are we headed with this conversation?

Approaching the end of our seventh year with YES! Young Enough to Serve, we've heard our share of rants about tech-tethered teens, not-so-sacred worship, theatre-like sanctuaries, and even about hipster pastors dressed in jeans, seemingly siding with the young while snubbing the old.

But let's take our punching gloves off for a moment and yank at the plank in our own eyes. Hitting the pause button on our rants, let's assume (or pretend) that WE in life's second half are our own worst enemy . . . all three of us: Me, myself, and I.

It's hard and out-of-character, I know, but we can do this!

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
— Matthew 7:4

Enemy #1: ME-Mastered Retirement

We live in a nation that nourishes an entitlement perspective regarding vocational retirement---usually in our sixties, followed optionally by a life of leisure. Some ask, "Is retirement even biblical?"

Well, retirement shows up in just one verse, Numbers 8:25, where the Levites had to retire at age fifty. (Whew! . . . a big sigh of relief from those of you who are vocationally retired!) 

While vocational retirement is not taboo in Scripture, it gets very little press.

What is not supported biblically is spiritual retirement, freedom that becomes lazy or self-absorbed, or personal identity grounded in retirement. Not a single verse or chapter support that kind of retirement!

renewing purpose

Let's face it, retirement sounds a bit tired, and it's a lonely word in Scripture. Pop the word 'renew' in your Bible search engine, and you'll find it's much more popular and life-breathing!

We're called to liberty and renewal. Through love we get to serve one another---often even more when the eight-to-five grind ends.

Enemy #2: MYSELF-Mirrored Segregation

This enemy highlights how generationally isolated we've allowed older adults to become in our culture---and sometimes even more so in our churches.

Year-after-year we grow comfortable peer-to-peer, but too often miss out on relationships from generation-to-generation.

Year-after-year we grow comfortable peer-to-peer, but too often miss out on relationships from generation-to-generation.

We're disturbed by the cocoon or silo approach we find ourselves in, often a picture of only older adults caring about older adults. Are we going to settle for being an amputated body part? (We can't change what we're resigned to tolerate.)

From Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 12, the whole body needs to show concern for each part, and each part needs to show concern for the whole body. The head cannot say to the foot, "I have no need of you."

Paradigms need to shift to re-align with Scripture. It's not just about becoming more culturally relevant, attractive and creative. These are byproducts of love flowing in a healthy way from generation to generation (in both directions!). The Bible makes it clear that God wants more than each generation fending for themselves.

Specialized life stage ministries have value, but peer-only approaches leave us with huge generational gaps, nonstick faith as students graduate from high school, and Teflon-coated church attendance as parents become empty nesters.

energizing hearts

We can move some hearts and change some lives peer-to-peer. But to really change a paradigm, we need reinforcements from outside that paradigm: younger generations, saints cheering us on from heaven, and, of course, the Holy Spirit.

We handicap ourselves when we ignore the help of younger, more energetic hearts and minds, along with wisdom from the great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us. Included in that cloud are poignant examples of the older Paul collaborating with the younger Timothy and Titus.

Helping churches build leadership teams with a broader age swath is a good starting point to combat enemy #2. YES! would love to help you broaden your team.

Enemy #3: I-Centered Salvation

Salvation from sin and the personal promise of eternal life are incredible. You and I as individuals are valued tremendously by God. The Father sent His only Son to redeem us.

But this wonderful redemption plan wasn't intended to stop with just us. We've been redeemed so that we might reach others.

Most American Christians admit to passing up the multiplication tables, opting for a quieter, noncontagious faith. For older, mature Christians who have experienced God's faithfulness over a lifetime, what a travesty when our light is hidden!

redeeming lives

If we're well grounded but not making disciples, what can we do?

One approach is conveniently convincing ourselves that evangelism and disciple-making are outside our wheelhouse of giftedness.

Another ill-advised approach involves beating ourselves up to the point where we add discouragement, guilt and timidity to our ineffectiveness.

The better approach is confessing our sin and asking God to help us become bolder and more deliberate in helping others in their faith journey. Then we look for situations where we can connect with those who are:

  • without faith,
  • new or weak in their faith,
  • or lost in a faith without Christ.

Jesus needed to be around people like this in His life here on earth. We need these people in our lives too.

Candles lit only in bright sunlight make little sense. You are still young enough and bright enough to light up a dark room!

Me, Myself and I

So there you have it. Three temptations 'me, myself and I' might encounter in life's second half: becoming too retired, segregated or noncontagious.

A year ago most of us were blissfully unaware of Ebola and ISIS. They have since become familiar, formidable foes. Apart from praying, though, most of us will at best offer indirect help to those combatting these horrific enemies directly.

But with God on our side we can wage war directly with 'me, myself and I'. We know this enemy inside and out. And this too is a battle we must win!

Lord, please penetrate our hearts and help us take the steps we need to move beyond ourselves—-so that our lives and the lives of others will be made whole. Amen.