relating to the next generation

I've been thinking about relating to "the next generation." Perhaps it's a bit early for me to be considering this, but it's come up in conversation and I'm intrigued.

A couple days ago, Kevin made some interesting comments (about raising kids) that deserve some serious thought. How important is parental discipline in a child's learning of God's ways? I've had a number of conversations with Heather about this as well. I wondered: Is it necessary for children to first learn the way of "the law," with its punishments, before they can understand the way of grace? It seems that's how Israel learned during its history. But does that also apply to each individual? And could I bear to shift back into a law maker (and enforcer) role? I don't know.

In this I think I have to look to Jesus' life for guidance. He wasn't a parent, but he did interact with children and also played an important role in training the disciples. And I do see a clear and firm moral standard in Jesus' training. A much higher moral standard than anyone else of his time (even most teachers today call his teaching "idealistic," "unachievable"). But Jesus' discipline doesn't seem to go beyond rebukes. He never raises the hand of power. Of course, if the disciples chose not to follow his Way, they could not stay with him. And eventually we do see them fall back as he goes to the cross. But their love for him (the Love of God in them) impelled them to keep following, even after his death. I'm not exactly sure how that might shape my parenting, but it seems important.

I was also talking with Lynn this morning on our drive to Bloomington (on my way to Champaign). She was sharing about the challenges of carrying on their farming community to the next generation. "Why don't they see how radical our life is?" she asked, wondering why it hasn't drawn more young people hungry for the radical Christian life.

I've wondered myself how I might relate to young people when I get older, how I might fit in to communities like at the Catholic Worker houses, which tend to be made up of younger people. Maybe it's a question of maintaining a spirit that continues to be vibrantly alive. A childlike spirit? A revolutionary spirit? A spirit on fire, maybe.

Again, I think the answer is in Jesus' life. "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12.49)

I don't think this fire can exist in an institution or a lifestyle, only in persons. And only if we continue to live in the complete abandonment of faith. Then our lives should look like Jesus' life, one of utter vulnerability and risk, trusting in God for everything, filled with his own Spirit of fire. That's pretty exciting and awe-inspiring, no matter what age you are.