Often our greatest strengths in one situation can be our greatest weakness in another. I would like to think this is only true of others but I am guilty of it myself. I love to process things. I can analyze things to death. Sometimes that is a great strength because I am able to understand difficult things. Other times that tendency or talent becomes a burden as I end up just processing through something but never move it to action. When it comes to our young adults some of their greatest strengths can also be their weaknesses. This is true today and this was true in Jesus’ day. I want to focus in on two examples where this was the case and then look at how Jesus handled each. When we see how Jesus disciples them through their mistakes we can be better equipped to disciple our young adults.
Mark 9:30-37 is a section of scripture that suffers from one of those terrible heading breaks in the NIV (I just noticed that the 2010 NIV corrected this…good going guys!). Jesus is talking about how he is going to Jerusalem to be crucified and to raise from the dead. Meanwhile, the disciples are discussing who is the greatest. Jesus is revealing the mystery of the ages and they are caught up in which one of the disciples is the best. How do you even have an argument like that? The guys know what that sounds like…they are “one up’ing” each other. I did this better than you or I cast out the most demons. You healed a guy too but he still seemed like he had a limp going there when we left. The irony is, Jesus was telling them who the greatest was. He was the greatest and the reason he was the greatest was not because he could boast about it but because he was a servant and humbly obedient to the Father.
These disciples were full of enthusiasm. They were ready to get things done. They wanted to be great! Jesus never said being great was a bad thing…you just had to understand greatness and clearly, they did not. We can learn something from how Jesus didn’t respond to them…He didn’t blast them, scold them, or harshly rebuke them. How did he respond? He responded with patience. Their enthusiasm was a good thing…even a great thing. But it was being pointed in an unhealthy direction. Jesus was patient enough with them to use their mistake as a learning opportunity about what greatness was all about.
When it comes to discipling young adults their enthusiasm has to be matched with our patience. Don’t we want our young people to be great in God’s sight? If we do we are going to have to have the patience of Jesus because as enthusiastic as our young people are, there are going to be times their enthusiasm leads them into making poor choices. Let me be really honest about this one…it is easy to be impatient with people we don’t really care about. Where does impatience come if it doesn’t come from being unconcerned for that person? If we really love our young people and want to see them grow it is going to take patience. They are going to need older, more mature Christians to walk along side them and help them make wise decisions. And when they mess up, they need to know that there is room for mistakes. Jesus allowed room for his young disciples to make mistakes. Should our standards be stricter than his? Or, like Jesus, do we use those times as opportunities to teach? We will only be able to do so if we have the patience of Jesus.
Our young people aren’t perfect and they know it. They desire people in their lives who are willing to accept imperfections and not getting it right all the time. As the cultural separation between young and old widens this becomes increasingly difficult. But if the mature really are mature, they will be able to look past the difference and help these young people grow closer to God and it may just be that a mistake is exactly what needs to happen to open up the door of opportunity to help them grow.
Last, let me humble the more mature for a moment. Jesus example of greatness was not gathering together a group of the community elders. Instead, he used a little child as the example of greatness. Innocence and total dependence is great in God’s sight and as we get older and our accomplishments grow (as do our mistakes) it can become easier and easier to forget that. We need each other. The old need the enthusiasm of the young and the young need the patience of the old. When we work together in that manner God will certainly be glorified!