“Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock...
“In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.”
— 1 Peter 5:3, 5a (NRSV)
How does it occur that an octogenarian can genuinely call a fourteen-year-old their friend—that they have such mutual respect for one another, in the fundaments of love, they consider themselves equals?
It can occur because it does occur. It’s the Apostle Peter’s point that this should not only be possible, but preferable.
Does it mean that the younger person doesn’t need to offer the respect-of-office to the elder one? Not at all—age carries with it a natural esteem; for the acquisition of experience.
Does it mean that the elder can take advantage of this esteem? Well, the fact is he or she doesn’t. That’s the point.
Age is Not the Issue
Life presents us with the choice to think small or to think big.
Peter’s thought range—a biblical escarpment—is naturally God-broad. This thinking is subsumed for us in the mode of godly “humility,” which is such equality with all humankind, regardless of difference, that heart-love propels it.
If we again considered the above 80-something with the 14-year-old we’d find an inordinate maturity in each of them as individuals. (I’ve known fourteen-year-olds with more overall maturity than some sixty-year-olds. So, not all older people are mature and not all young people are immature.)
These two have reached the nexus of God’s design for unequal yoking of age. Rare, but it happens, and to the glory of God.
There are, of course, sadly, many more examples of the older person lording it over younger ones and the young showing scant respect for their elders. Both have issues with pride.
So, this is not an age issue, it’s a pride issue.
Harmony with All Humankind – But Only in Humility
This will go against the grain for many believers, but there is a grand test for humility in the motioning of life. It surrounds one word.
There are still too many of us vagrantly intolerant of other people, moods, normal and abnormal situations, minority groups, complexity, simplicity—the list goes on.
God’s grace is most wondrously known in the realm of tolerance, and our acceptance of things beyond our control is the magnification of love to the glory of God.
Harmony can only be broached in a sweeping dialogue of tolerance which characterises hearts at home to humility.
This is our test of dignity and integrity.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.