The Problem of a Generation

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Jesus said to the crowds: To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, We played the flute for you but you did not dance. We sang a dirge but you did not weep.

For John the Baptist came neither eating food, nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her children. Luke 7:31-35

The problem of the generation of Jesus’ time is the same problem that this generation still labors under. What is that problem? It is a profound capacity to mis-interpret the truth that is before us. This is due to the inability to see the world beyond the narrow confines of the prideful ego. As a result, many still respond to Jesus’ challenges with indifference and contempt. The generation of Jesus’ time used the differences between the ways John the Baptist lived and the ways that Jesus lived as an excuse to not listen to him. They saw only the outward difference, and missed the deeper meaning of both lives. They used it as an excuse to be either indifferent to Jesus and his message, or as reason to despise and condemn them both. Why? Because Jesus challenged them to begin to live a more selfless, self-giving, dynamic, and faithful lives. He was challenging them to live out of a faith that transcends outer signs of piety and rank through humble service to God and others. Jesus challenged them, as he challenges us in this generation today, to let go of the false comforts of the ego, and to begin the hard work of loving God with our whole hearts, minds, bodies and souls, and our neighbors as ourselves.

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When Christians today ridicule, or condemn other Christians, treating them with indifference or contempt out of a prideful sense of self-righteousness, rather than loving each other enough to find ways to celebrate and to grow together in their mutual love of God, they are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ generation. They judge by external signs only. They are like the people of Jesus’ generation who mocked the differences between the lifestyles of John the Baptist and Jesus, and missed the fact that they were both serving the same God. The secularists of this age use such examples of Christians judging other Christians in this way as an excuse to treat all religion, and particularly Christianity, with a studied indifference, or an arrogant contempt.

This Gospel passage is telling us that only the humble will be able to hear. It is only those who listen with the innocence of true, child-like, humility that will finally “see”. Only the humble can experience the joy that comes from the wisdom that “vindicates her children.”

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.