What happens when one generation abandons the next?
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.
All men, especially young men, crave community and fellowship. God has placed in men this desire to belong to something bigger than themselves, where they can strive, learn, achieve, and see the fruit of not just their own labor, but their collective labor with other men. This includes the desire to be mentored and apprenticed and grow in capability and responsibility, and then pass the learning on to future generations. It is the desire to be vitally involved in building the kingdom. This desire is good and holy and righteous.
As a check on youthful exuberance, God has also placed in men a susceptibility to peer pressure. This check is supposed to happen in the context of older, wiser, more experienced men shepherding the younger. This shepherding implies that the older men are actively involved in the lives of the younger. But there is an expectation that younger men are going to congregate together also. Such groups of younger men will then image the works of the older men, learning by doing, and gain the knowledge and skills to live in society.
But, this generational oversight and teaching often breaks down. Younger men congregate in groups, but there is little contact, much less oversight by older men. Intergenerational community breaks down and the younger men become like rogue young bull elephants in Africa, roaming about seeking mischief and worse. With no older men to guide them, they see the results of the labor of the previous generation, but do not see the labor itself as worthwhile.
Now they are ripe for temptation, sin, and death. The desire for community and fellowship is still there, it is inherent. The appreciation and desire for the fruits of labor is there, that is inherent. But without the fellowship and guidance of the older generation, these good desires are perverted by sin. Parallel societies are setup: there are mentors, there are “wise men”, there are accomplished men, there are leaders, there are protectors, every aspect of a godly society is there, but in perverted form and purpose. Rather than build, they will take what others have built. They will build, after a fashion, their own kingdoms, rather than the kingdom of God. Because of their inexperience, they will not see what is coming–their actions will bring about their own destruction. They do have a society, but it is a society based on death.
If you look at gang structures, they mirror the structures of the bible’s covenantal institutions: family, church, and government. But at every level, these institutions are twisted and deformed. God’s judgment lies heavy on them: they have violated the commandment to honor father and mother, to honor godly authority. Thus their days, rather than being long, are cut short. Instead of expanding their responsibility in the world, they are herded into particular areas of cities, killing zones, where the young men themselves will do the killing.
But God’s judgment falls on the rest of society as well. Sin must be met with repentance and reproof, grace and judgment. The origin of the problem began with the apathy, absence, and arrogance of older men, who forsook their sacred task of passing civilization on to the younger. Like all sin, this started small and then grew with each generation until there is no memory of what happened. We just see that todays kids are different than we were, or so we imagine. And in one sense we are right, our generation had less delinquents, because it still had a few men who engaged with young men. But each generation, there are fewer actively engaged men and more delinquents. As our leisure increases, so does our abandonment. And then we point our fingers at the next generation and scorn them. And God laughs at us derisively.
The son in Proverbs had a father who warned him, taught him, and loved him. Certainly, repentance must begin in the family. But there are too many young men today who have no fathers. The church must repent. The church must engage the fatherless. But, more fundamentally, the church must engage men and men in church must engage the church. Men, when they are in church today, are lounging in church. When was the last time you saw men in church actively engaging with one another, provoking one another to repentance, to prayer, to good works? When was the last time you saw men in church engaging the boys and young men? When was the last time you saw men in church singing loudly and joyfully? When was the last time you saw men in church humbling themselves before God?
You see none of these things because the most rebellious men there are, are those who strut and pose as elders, deacons, and members of the body of Christ, while having nothing of the Spirit of Christ.
And we watch the young men burn.