Curious about understanding the impact of generational differences? We started the conversation here.
Whether we’re seeking to connect one-on-one in a mentoring relationship, interacting in a family setting, or working with a ministry team with men and women from all walks of life, we know one thing is true:
We all see life from a unique vantage point that’s been influenced by our God-given wiring and the generational influences upon us.
However, I do believe it is possible to come to the table in the pursuit of unity for the sake of effective impact through applying the following six key principles drawn from Romans 12. These principles set a foundation for being effectively used by God because they foster bridge-building between the generations along with servant-minded leadership.
One: Let God Change the Way We Think
Romans 12:2 NLT
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
When it comes to our generationally-influenced way of thinking, the tendency is to believe that our way is the right way. But what if it isn’t? What if there is a better way, and it just happens to be the new way? Or what if what worked in the past is still working and it’s time to get a little old-fashioned? There is no pat answer, but there is wisdom in this principle: “Be willing to let God change the way you think.”
Two: Be Honest in Our Evaluation of Ourselves
Romans 12:3 NLT
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Could this instruction be any simpler? Put another way, we’d be wise to take the plank out of our own eye before picking the speck out of someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3). So what does it look like to “own your bias” and be willing to look at life through another set of lenses? Maybe it’s not about changing your position or ways, but rather moving into a place of compassion for those you’re in a relationship with and leading from another generation.
Three: Embrace Our Part in the Body of Christ — And Lead Well
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Again and again, we find in Scripture that we are each a part of the whole — each a member of the body of Christ and a necessary part of the family of God. So what does it look like to take up our part and use our “gifts for doing certain things well”? What gifts did He give to you to benefit the family of God? Is it the ability to speak out truth with much faith? Is it serving others? Is it teaching? Is it encouraging? Is it giving? Is it leadership? Is it showing kindness?
As you think about your gift, take a minute to consider how it has been influenced by your wiring, upbringing, and age. Yes, your generation shapes your gifting, and that’s a good thing. Embrace it and find your place, because we are not meant to go it alone. We belong to each other. Isn’t that interesting? How often do we feel like we don’t belong . . . in our family of origin or the one we married into, at church or work, on a ministry team? Could that be the enemy’s tactic to separate us because God intends for us to come together in unity, as one, not only for our good but His kingdom purposes? So what if we fought against our isolation tendencies and intentionally reached towards one another, integrating the generations and giftings together in the body of Christ?
Four: Love, Honor, and Serve Well
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Do any of us like pretenders? NO! There’s a place for them on Broadway and Hollywood, but when it comes to relationships, we want the real deal. Wouldn’t you also agree that we want authentic love and naturally hate wrongdoing? We want what is good, which is why we root for the underdog to win and feel warm fuzzies at happy endings. So what does it look like to pursue this natural desire, especially within our families, ministry teams, and workplaces? What does it look like to love, honor, and serve others, as God instructs? Of course, that requires putting to death our flesh nature. With the power of Christ at work within us, it is possible! Imagine living so surrendered to God, so empty of the emotional baggage and the junk that fills our heart-shaped trunk, that we’re able to “let the Spirit excite you as serve the Lord.” (footnote in the Jesus-Centered Bible). Imagine that kind of passion taking over in you!
Five: Bless, Be Real, and Don’t Be Too Proud
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Isn’t it true that our flesh threatens to overtake all that is good? Instead of walking in the Spirit, we fall into our own fleshy weakness. That’s why it feels impossible to bless those who are making our lives miserable. It’s also just as hard to be happy for others when our lives feel sub par. Maybe it’s even why we run from the pain we see in others because we don’t feel like we can handle it on our own strength.
Oh friend, in God’s power and through the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we can. We can bless and be real, reach from one generation to the next without fear of judgment or bearing up more than we can handle. So shall we humble ourselves before God, and pursue living in harmony with each other? As Paul urges, that really starts with this step: “Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all.”
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Six: Do All We Can to Live in Peace with Everyone
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
The crescendo of all these principles is found in verse 18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” All that you can is a challenging stipulation. That means we have no excuse. God wants us to do everything we can to live in peace. There is no free pass. Whether in our families, or ministries, or workplace, there is a standard set before us. To fulfill the commands of this verse requires submitting to everything God has instructed thus far.
It starts with asking God to change our thinking as we embrace honest in our evaluation of ourselves before taking up our grace-ordained part in the body of Christ, striving to authentically love, honor, and serve one another in love and humility.
Oh my, in this one book in the Bible there are at least six principles for how to live as a follower of Christ, and upon that foundation, we’ll find exactly how to cross the generational divide. Now the challenge is to put it into action.
May the grace of God and His mighty power be at work in you.
If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic of generational differences, mentoring, and biblical leadership, consider Impact Together: Biblical Mentoring Simplified and the Impact Mentoring Online Training Course.