When we live with our mind in heaven with our Father and our feet planted firmly on the ground in the world where He has put us, we live a life that is not deemed possible by the rest of our generation; a generation that has allowed our identity to be defined by the label that is put on us. We are the Millennials, Generation Y; the by-products of protective parents in the age of terrorism and a media that focuses on the dangers in society; the generation that can expect to have difficulty finding a job, to not have enough money, to graduate university into a bad economy, and to feel the consequences of the decisions of those that have come before. We’re the generation that protests: politics, education costs, the legalization of marijuana. We’re the generation in which one in four of us have posted a video of themselves online, and the majority have multiple social media profiles and are carving out an online platform that will stay with us for our entire lives. Technology is ours, wired for it since birth, and the internet is all that we have ever known. We’re the “thumb culture” generation, spending our lives on keyboards and mobiles and gaming controllers. We suffer from hyper-connectivity, trying to maintain friendships with anything up to 1500 connections, and we’re experiencing all-time high levels of ADD.
For most of modern history, our society has fitted people into these nice neat boxes, giving us generational identities that will define us in the history books. There was the Baby Boomers, the people characterized by a huge increase in birth rates following the second world war. Generation X followed them, and then Generation Y, the Millennials, each taking on their own identity. And generally, we’re happy for our identity to be found in our generation, because that identity gives us a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves. Generally, it is assumed that members of the same generation will tend to hold similar beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, affecting their values, risk taking, social norms and the culture that they create. Generational identity gives us a way to bond with our peers – I’m with you; me too! We talk about generations in the same way that we talk about horoscopes, recognizing that it is not the whole truth, but actively seeking out articles about our generation in order to find something to relate to. You only need to log on to Facebook to find something on your news-feed: You know you’re a Millennial if…
But, like any other stereotype, people do not fit into nice, neat boxes. While people are desperate for something to belong to and connect to people within, this is not the truth of who we are. The theories will tell you that historical events shape peer groups differently, depending on the phase of life that they are in, we know that this is not the truth; there is real danger in simply doing things the way that they are done, simply because that is the way that our generation has always done them. There is a danger in believing the things that we believe, simply because those are the things that our generation believes. There’s a danger in treating people the way that we should treat them, simply because that is how our generation treats them.
It is possible to take a step back, and to look to God for the guidance than we need in our lives, rather than looking to our generational and cultural norms that are set by the people around us. It is possible to know hope and truth in a world that will tell us that there is no hope. It is possible to be united with others in a world that seeks to divide. It is possible to not see anyone as less than, but to know that we are all one in Christ Jesus.
“So, in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28)
Christ did not come simply to change us individually; Christ came to save the world, and our identity is found not in being one with our generation, but in being one with all who belong to Christ. There is no class division, or gender division, nor racial division, for we are all one in Him. God has so much love for each of us as his sons and daughters that he does not make any of us inferior or less than anyone else – He is for us and does not put anything on us that is harmful. In a world where there was male domination, where the Jews were seen as closer to God, where slaves were a part of society, Paul was telling each of us to serve one another and put others before ourselves. Unity fights against the enemy’s plan to divide and bring darkness and hatred.
Our job is to be an ambassador of God’s Kingdom; for our lives to point people towards the love of God, and to be vessels of grace, and peace, and truth. When people come into contact with me, my presence in their life should communicate that they are not “less than”, they are not excluded, but that they are included in the love of Christ, and they are accepted in the body of Christ. Instead of finding their identity in the rules that are set by a generation, they can find freedom in the love of Christ; they can find belonging in the body of Christ and know that they are part of a story that is much bigger than themselves.
“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:21)
The dark is a comfortable place to be, because nobody can see you; it becomes really easy to put on a face, and live in an identity that is not our own. But we are called to come into the light, so that others might see that we do not live in our own strength, but in the strength that comes from God because of all that He has done. Christ has saved us, and we live by Him – let’s live in a way that brings no doubt of this. We are dead, and He lives in us; therefore, whatever we do is not us, but God – our lives are not about us, but a testimony to who God is and what He has done.
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and when we give our lives as vessels to this love, He can pour out of us for all to see. Everything that God does is because of the love that He has for His people – encounters with God’s great grace bring hope; hope for a great life, for vision and for calling. I am a co-heir with God. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I have a gospel that delivers me from death.
My hope in God delivers me from cynicism and victim attitudes that can be found in our generation. Hope does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit: this unfailing love that is inside of me means that I have hope in something that is much bigger than myself and the circumstances that I am in.
That’s the question that comes up, time and time again, particularly when I’m working with young people – Heather, how are you always smiling? Why are you happy all the time? Joy is not about having a “fake it until you make it” attitude, and smiling when you don’t feel like smiling because people might be convinced that you are happy; joy is about finding hope in the unfailing love that God has for us, and putting the truth of God over my perception of the world that I am in.
In a world that is cynical, hopeless, angry and bitter at the things that are happening to us, I am possible. In a generation that doesn’t need a God because we can go after our own destiny, I am possible. In a generation that will tell me that I should be lonely and that I need a boyfriend, I am possible. In a generation that does not look at the people that are struggling around us, but instead only focuses on our own happiness and achieving our own goals, I am possible. I will never be beaten down, and angry and bitter, because I have elected to sit in my identity as a child of God.