My dad was fifty-two years old when I was born. When I was thirteen, he asked me if I was embarrassed that he was so much older than my friends’ dads. I told him I wasn’t embarrassed but that I respected him and learned more from him because he was older. He was born a few years after the end of World War I and fought in World War II. He had a newspaper route during the Great Depression, and he told me stories about real cowboys, bank robbers, and his father, who grew up at the turn of the twentieth century in the old West in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. My dad wasn’t just older than my friends’ dads, he was from a different era, an era when young men respected old men and when old men raised young men to be men and not just guys. It was a time when older men and older women took seriously the biblical charge to teach and train younger men and women in old values such as integrity, service, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, wisdom, hard work, and humility.
My father’s values were old, traditional values. But just because they were old and traditional didn’t necessarily make them good. They were good values because they were biblical values, and biblical values are relevant in every generation. But although they are relevant in every generation, they are disappearing from the rising generation. The problem today is not so much that young people have consciously rejected ancient biblical values but that they have not been taught what they are, much less been trained in them. Many teenagers simply do not know the old values that many of us take for granted. For decades now, many parents have turned over to Hollywood the responsibility of teaching values to their children. As a result, many young people have been left to fend for themselves and figure out their own personal sets of values, whether or not those values are biblical or conflict with other people’s sets of values. The result is that many young people, in the world and in the church, not only don’t know right from almost-right and truth from half-truth, they don’t even know right from wrong and truth from falsehood. They have not been taught the old values and they have not been guided down the old paths. Thus, they have had to make new paths, not knowing the old paths of their fathers or the ancient path of the Lord.
These new paths have, in turn, become the path of our culture. Much of society is being overtaken by a youth-driven culture because we have neglected God’s call to train up the next generation of young people in the way they should go. If we are to redirect the current paths of young people, we must begin in the church by taking up the charge to come alongside younger men and women, and teach them the old, ancient values of God’s Word.