There is a great potential in young people. It is like dynamite. Dynamite can do great good when used in the right way. It can pave the way for new buildings, schools, lakes, highways, and numerous other projects which will benefit mankind. In the wrong hands, though, it can be used to take life, often thousands of lives. Young people have the same potential for good or bad.
Adolph Hitler understood the power of young people. After he came to power in Germany in 1932 one of the early actions he took was to outlaw all youth groups, especially the religious ones. In their place he formed the Hitler Youth and the German League of Young Girls. In these organizations young people were taught to revere Hitler and serve him without question. The boys were taught that it would be an honor to lay down their lives for Fatherland and Fuhrer. The girls were taught that it was their duty to bear children and obey the Fuhrer. The youth of Germany were taught that they were the master race and it was their destiny to dominate the world. What happened as a result of Hitler harnessing the power of youth? A significant portion of this generation of German youth committed horrible atrocities in the name of their Fuhrer. In fact, Hitler did such a good job indoctrinating a generation that it was a detachment of Hitler Youth who died in the final battle for Berlin in 1945.
We shouldn’t under estimate the strength of youth in the church, either. Why is there such strength in our youth?
1. They are idealistic. There are worlds to conquer, battles to win, deeds to be done. They have not yet learned what can’t be done. They have not become jaded by life’s heartbreaks and defeats. And because they don’t know what can’t be done, they often achieve great things.
2. They have boundless energy. They seem to never tire in whatever work they passionately believe in. They don’t tire like the rest of us who have done enough that we often feel like we need a rest.
3. They approach many things with a clean slate. They don’t have many of the old prejudices that we older adults have. This is why there is often less of a problem with racial bigotry among the young than among the old.
But with these things there are some dangers. Young people are sometimes naive. They do not have the value of experience. They often give into the siren call of temptation that the old have faced. And, the young are less likely to listen to older people who warn about mistakes because they are so idealistic.
To both young and old in the church let me make a few suggestions:
Older Christian, don’t seek to destroy the zeal and idealism of the young. The church needs their zeal and fire for the Lord. We need their energy. Try to refrain from constantly telling them, “We’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work then!” Do not seek to discourage young brethren. “Let no one despise your youth…” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Young Christian, you need to respect those who are older, especially those who are your brothers and sister in the body of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-2). They have been through life and really do know more than you. Seek out their wisdom and weigh carefully their warnings. If they are seeking to do the Lord’s will they are due honor. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).