Many Generations, One Body

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body we think less honorable we bestow greater honor…– 1 Corinthians 12:21-23
We live in a world that seeks to divide us at every turn. From our political affiliations to our preferences of music and computer hardware, we are encouraged to lump ourselves into a myriad of mutually unintelligable sub-cultures. We have become a society that does not know how to have a real conversation, a culture in which public discourse has increasingly become a place of symbolic violence, rather than (com)passionate debate. And in a society as fundamentally divided as ours, it is a small leap from the world of soundbites and images to the concrete expression of that violence.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, it is my experience that there is a power capable of breaking down the walls that divide us, bringing true reconciliation. Through the amazing power of Jesus’ self-giving love, I am being healed of the brokenness of this present age, and gathered into a Body that is greater than any human divisions.

One division that I have explored a lot in recent years is that of generational divides. There are real differences between us, depending on when each of us was born. For example, Baby Boomers (Americans born between roughly 1943 and 1960) have a huge amount of shared experience that bonds them together as a unique cultural group. The same is true of Generation X (Americans born roughly between 1961-1981) and Millennials(1982-2002?). While each of these generations is comprised of tens of millions of individuals with a huge array of experiences, personalities and individual life choices, we exist within a broader generational context.

As a rising Millenial, it was empowering to realize that I was part of a new generation which had a distinct way of doing things from our Boomer parents and our Xer mentors. I saw that our differences weren’t simply a rebellion against “the way things are”; rather, we as a generation share a unique set of experiences and assumptions, a special perspective that is just as legitimate as those of prior generations.
Yet, the spirit of division did what it always does: It took hold of these places of aliveness and difference and twisted them into something that divides us. Rather than understanding our generational differences as a source of mutual empowerment and respect, there are many forces in our society that have pitted one generation against another. Whether a “Pepsi Generation” or a “Joshua Generation,” marketers and ideologues work night and day to make our generational differences grounds for division and hatred rather than the basis of strength and cooperation. Instead of recognizing our differences as a gift from God, we have often been lured into a false narrative of generational competition.

This fits with what our consumerist culture tells us about everything else. We are taught from an early age that other people exist to be used and exploited, that life is a battle to be won and that our fellow human beings are our opponents. We have been seduced by a worldview that sees domination as the prerogative of the strong and grinding poverty the rightful fate of the weak. No wonder we live in such a violent, divided society! How can we trust anyone if the purpose of life is to maximize personal profit and minimize personal pain, regardless of the consequences to those around us?

There is a Spirit that I feel, inviting us into something more life-giving and true than this twisted vision of the cosmic order. There is a Life and Power that is grounded in indescribable love, a Love that lays down his own life for the benefit of his friends rather than seeking his own narrow pleasure. It is this Truth that binds us together, breaking down the dividing wall and making one where there were once many.

What if we understood our different generations as being vital and necessary members of the same body? What would happen if we saw our generational differences as gifts to be used for blessing all generations? What if Xers offered up their hard-minded expertise and common sense for the good of our whole society? How might the world change if Boomers put forth their deep spirituality and vision as a gift to those who follow in their footsteps? What if we Millennials demonstrated our love to older generations by exercising our emerging gifts of collaboration and team-building? How might we all be transformed if we embraced God’s gifts to our generations and were made one in the Holy Spirit?