Monday, August 19, 2013
Thomas Vincent on the wider implications of the fifth commandment: The relationship between the younger and the older
Note: Below are notes from yesterday's final installment in the mini-series on the wider implications of the fifth commandment, focusing on the relationship between the younger and the older. Again, Thomas Vincent's exposition of the Shorter Catechism served as a guide.
In our final installment in this series we examine the relationship between—as Vincent puts it— those who are “younger and inferior in gifts and graces” and “the aged and superior.”
Notice, first of all, the striking, counter-cultural assumption of this description. It assumes that those who are older in age will have superior gifts and graces to which the younger should defer, offering respect and admiration, in humility. I think that reflects not only a Puritan mindset but also a Biblical mindset. We have turned this wisdom nearly completely on its head. We live in a culture that overvalues and worships youth and overlooks the aged. The marketers aim their products at the coveted youth consumers. The rapid rise of technology has also contributed greatly to this, as it the young who have largely mastered technological proficiency while the older have been left behind. The fault is not only with the younger generation but also with the older who rather than relishing in reaching an age of maturity and exercising its inherent benefits instead too often abandon this position of responsibility and enter into a sort of second teenage existence, desiring to live selfishly or to finish off their “bucket list” before death.
One aspect of this is that many of our churches are having a hard time finding mature, qualified men to serve as officers and leaders. Note well, however, that I am not suggesting men be placed in office merely because they are older. They must meet the Biblical qualifications. Another aspect of this in the church is that we have many congregations that are essentially age segregated, often due to the musical aspects of the church’s worship (contemporary or traditional).
Again, the Biblical outlook is quite different. In this worldview, the younger look to the experience of the older to learn and gain wisdom from them, looking forward to the time when they too will reach this position of responsibility and influence. And the older see themselves as carefully living exemplary lives so as to provide a model and pattern for those behind them to follow. Thus the church is a rich mutually encouraging intergenerational fellowship.
Three duties of the younger to the older:
First: To rise up before them and given place to them, with reverence and respect.
Leviticus 19:32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head [the gray-headed], and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
Second: Humble submission to them, so as to follow their wise counsels.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
By elder (presbyteros) Peter calls younger men to be submitted not merely those in the office of elder (though they would be mature men, over the age of 30) but also to all Christian men in the body who are older in age. Sadly I have sometime seen situations in churches where younger do not demonstrate the attitude for which Peter here calls. The results can be harmful and chaotic to all.
Consider Philemon 9 where Paul appeals, in part, to his authority not only as an apostle but as a aged or older Christian man:
Philemon 1:9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged [presbytes], and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Third: Imitation of them in their graces and holy conversations.
Paul could say:
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Too many today are like the athlete Charles Barkley who said, “I don’t want to be a role model.” I don’t want the responsibility.
Consider in Luke 2 when the infant Jesus is brought to the temple. Who meets him and recognizes who he is: the aged Simeon and the aged Anna. They serve as models and examples.
The duty of the older to the younger:
Vincent: “The duties of the aged and superior in gifts and graces, unto the younger and inferior, are—To adorn their old age, and show forth the power of their grace in a holy and exemplary conversation [by this he meant not just their words but the pattern of their lives].”
The passage that he cites in support of this point is Titus 2:
Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
What a beautiful thing it is when there is this kind of intergenerational fellowship and mutual encouragement with the body of Christ.
Let me add before closing that Vincent also contributes a few words about the duties of equals one to another including:
First: To love in peace, with sincere love to one another, preferring each other in honor. He cites:
1 Thessalonians 5:13: “Be at peace with one another.”
Romans 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Second: To be pitiful, courteous and affable, and ready to promote one another’s good, and to rejoice therein. He cites:
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful [compassionate or tenderhearted] be courteous:
1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth [good or well-being].
Let these things be our aim as we live out the wider principles of this fifth commandment.