When we think of older generations, we think of those who came before us, the ones whose shoulders we stand on. However, when we think about the solidarity of our relationship with those generations, there seems to be a gap.
Intergenerational relationships are of utmost importance. There is immense value in passing on wisdom from one generation to the other. We can learn from the mistakes of those who came before us, but that can only happen if we choose to stay connected. A strong connection allows for mentorship, advice and direction. Older people have lived through experiences and circumstances that younger people have not. This is the surest way to share wisdom.
Bridging the gap between one generation and the next is also a vital way of preserving the core values of the church and of passing on the baton to the next generation.
From a biblical perspective, intergenerational solidarity can bring about blessings or curses. In Deuteronomy 28, there is a list of blessings and curses.
“But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…. The Lord will send upon you disaster, panic, and frustration in everything you attempt to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-6) “But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…. The Lord will send upon you disaster, panic, and frustration in everything you attempt to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 20)
“All these curses shall come upon you, pursuing and overtaking you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God, by observing the commandments and the decrees that he commanded you. They shall be among you and your descendants as a sign and a portent forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and with gladness of heart for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and lack of everything. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.” (Deuteronomy 28:45-48)
In Deuteronomy 28, we can see how both blessings and curses can be passed on from one generation to the next. Examples today include but are not limited to remnants of colonialism, racism, injustices, wars, violence, the merciless killings of minority groups or innocent people and jealousy.
We can see the negative impacts all these acts have had on different generations and different races. All these sins bring about curses which can destroy intergenerational relationships.
One generation may ask the other: Why didn’t you stand up for what is right? When black men or women were being killed, why did you remain silent? During the time of the Holocaust, why didn’t you stand up for what is right? When war was erupting, why didn’t you speak up?
To this day, my question to older generations concerning injustices of the past is still: Why didn’t you stand up for what is right?
How can we be sure that God will bless us and bless the ones who will come after us? By living the life of obedience that God has called us to.
What are actions we can take to create, nurture or repair intergenerational relationships?
We can ask God to forgive our forefathers and -mothers for the sins they committed knowingly or unknowingly. Sins that have brought upon curses on their generation, and the generations to come.
According to 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must confess our sins and that includes confessing the sins of the generations that came before us.
God will release a blessing over our lives and our future generations. It is one thing to ask for forgiveness, however it is important not to continue in those old ways or continue living in sin. If we have chosen to follow the way of Christ, then there is no room for malice, violence, racism or injustices.
We can seek God’s face concerning the future of the church. We can pray that God will bridge the gap between generations and for meaningful relationships to be created. We can also pray that God reveals God’s divine will and purpose for our lives. The Bible encourages us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17,NIV)
We can be intentional about creating spaces for different generations and age groups to interact. We can find ways to build intergenerational relationships through our families, the church and our communities. We can also create mentorship programs between young people and older adults. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead” (James 2:26).
Intergenerational solidarity can also strengthen our relationship with God. “One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendour of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 145:4-7).
Faith can be passed on from one generation to the other. When we reflect on the wonderful acts of God in our lives, we can trace it back to generations before us. We can only have a strong appreciation for God’s work when there is good relation between one generation and the other. Sharing our testimonies with each other can strengthen our faith in God.
— Makadunyiswe Doublejoy Ngulube is the YABs (Young AnaBaptists) Committee Africa representative (2015-2022) and a member of the Brethren in Christ Church Zimbabwe. She currently lives in Canada where she pursues her passion for environmental science the God-given responsibly to steward the earth’s resources well.