I have been a moderately successful teacher just because I know this to be true: Kids just do not care about what you have to say if they feel you do not care about them. So I try to show how much I care first–then my discipline is taken pretty darn well. Even if they are mad, they know that I love them, that I won’t hold a grudge, that we can get back on track with some corrected behavior.
I bring this up because this is a key element missing from what people experience at church.
You see, older generations (and I am talking age right now) understood discipline. If you do x, then you get y. If you don’t do x, you get z. End of story. This is how most approached religious instruction: follow the rules and you will be loved by God. You will be blessed. There is some truth to that.
On the other hand, newer generations are all about the love. God loves you. God does not want to hurt you. God will care for you no matter what you do because He is love. Even if you are the worst, God will always save you and protect you and love on you. There is some truth to that, too.
The whole truth is all of the above. You cannot have one without the other. Real love comes with discipline. And real discipline is only effective when given in love.
Too many of us live life with the expectation that living a Christian life is all love and no discipline. What happens when you have a situation like that is well documented in science–permissive parenting leads to spoiled, entitled children. And I can assure you that this is the opposite of God’s plan. He desires his people to have a heart of compassion and giving, not spoiled gimme minded babies who tear up their lives and the earth with it while trying to claim the blessing.
This spiritual discipline falls to older generations (now I am talking about seasoned Christians). But these Christians have been in church so long that they have forgotten what they looked like when they were in sin and struggling to make consistent changes, so they offer little grace and mercy to those who are new to the faith. This is also not God’s will. As much mercy and grace as He has shown to all of us, how can we not give the same back to others?
So then what happens is that a rift occurs: older saints give hard correction without mercy while young saints are rejecting correction outright.
This is out of order for the kingdom (and for life period even if you are not a Christian).
My older generation: People accept wisdom when it is given with the attitude of love and support rather than attack and accusation. If you want to be heard, speak with love, not offense.
My younger generation: sometimes people are not attacking you. They are actually offering criticisms that you need to be a better person. The very prosperity that you seek can be found in people correcting the behaviors that deter you from your destiny.
My older saints: God IS love, and His love is what He requires us to show to others. You did not come into knowledge or holiness or blessing of your own accord; these are gifts from God. Neither did you completely stop messing up once you got saved. You may not do outward things, but everybody’s hearts need checking for pride, self righteousness, fear, doubt, and the like. So stop acting like your religious self is so much better than these young folks. If you truly love God, you will love his people even in their mess (Just like He LOVED you).
My younger saints: last time I checked, holiness is still a requirement of seeing God. If you are indeed abiding in Christ, your life ought to show SOME signs of positive change. The first sign of change is humility–because you realize and understand that you do NOT deserve the grace and mercy that you have been shown over and over and over. That means you are able to take correction when it comes even when it hurts your feelings.
We are all responsible for unity of the faith. That unity includes the total gospel as well as how we work together within it. So let us go forth together in love AND the discipline that love brings.