Looking at the picture on the left, who do you think is the oldest? What if I told you that the “oldest” isn’t who you think it is. Something that has always stricken me as odd since I have been a Christian is the matter of “age”. When I was in my 20s, I never really felt like anyone took me seriously, except for four and five year olds. I was at such an in between stage. I was too old to be young, and too young to be old. Then when I became saved, I became aware of a completely different “age”. My “spiritual age”. Apparently your “spiritual age” starts when you are saved. This frustrated me for two reasons, 1) I was already battling being taken seriously because of my physical age, now I had a double battle on my hands; and 2) I wanted so badly to grow spiritually but I felt that it didn’t matter how fast I grew because I would always have the number of years hanging over my head.
The picture above is one that was taken at my daughter Lizzie’s 5th birthday party. She is sitting next to her great grandpa Bob who got her the cute little purse that’s in her hands. You’ve probably figured out that I am not talking about physical age when I asked the introduction question. My daughter was saved when she was four, my grandfather to this day has not. His anger toward God runs deep and “religion” is not something he’s willing to listen to (pray for him). Therefore by “spiritual age” Lizzie is older. Weird concept huh?
May I challenge this frame of mind for a moment. One day when I was particularly frustrated with my “spiritual age” stereotype. I had offered advice to someone and in some manner was shut down because “how could she know, she hasn’t been saved very long”. Granted it may not have been very godly advice because I really HAD not been a Christian for very long. But nonetheless I was on a mission to GROW! I went home and began reading my Bible. It’s funny how things can pop out at you at certain points that you completely looked over the day or week before.
I came across 1 Timothy 4 specifically verse 12 which says:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young”
Now that’s my kind of language! “You can’t look down on me cause I’m a new Christian, GOD says so!” (My REAL spiritual age was showing itself, all that was missing was me sticking my tongue out then crossing my arms with a pouty face) Then I kept digging because this whole topic intrigued me greatly. At first I became confused and just assumed that because they had been saved longer, that they MUST be older spiritually. I don’t believe that that is accurate. I believe that we all grow at different rates with growth spurts at different times and of different sizes. Only God Himself knows how old we are. I think that you can somewhat tell depending on the fruit that is produced in a person’s life but nothing definite for sure.
My continued study took me to books like Titus 2 where Paul writes about the older teaching the younger.
“Then they can train the younger” (v. 4a)
Now here’s a thought as well, if Paul is writing to Titus to teach the older, that must mean that even the older learn from the younger!
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. ” (vv. 1-2)
And another thing that crossed my mind is that we are never in just one spot of that equation. We are ALL both older AND younger! We all need to be taught as well as teach!
In 1 Peter 5 Paul writes in more detail about the job of the elders of the church and how they are supposed to be examples to the flock, and then to the younger to be submissive to the older.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers…” (v. 2a)
“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.” (v. 5a)
We all have this awesome task of working together, building each other up, and growing up in Christ together!
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.'”(1 Peter 5:5b)
This all sounds great but somewhere along the line, it has turned into a competition of who knows more and therefore who should have the last say in how things go. What tradition has been, how things used to be, “if it’s not how I think it should be then it’s wrong because I‘m “older” and therefore I know more than you.” “Everyone should care what I say and let ME have the last say because of MY ‘spiritual seniority'”. We so often get off track and focus on the wrong things that we miss such great opportunity to learn, teach, and grow like we should, the way God Himself intended. So you know what I think? I think that GOD should have the last say.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ” (1 Peter 5:6)