Within the predicament of youth and its proper solution there rests not only their future as individuals but also the future of the nation.
An honest appraisal of the situation forces us to admit that the plight in which they find themselves is not of their making. They are being sent out into the world without either chart or compass, and we, their elders, are to blame. The young people of our generation are but an elongated shadow of us. The sins of the fathers are being visited on the children. The moral and spiritual decadence of adults is being reflected in an intensified departure from moral and spiritual values by young people who have no norm by which to judge their own actions or those of others.
There are those blithe souls who wax lyrical about the present generation either through ignorance or because of the spiritual blindness with which they themselves are afflicted. But the realistic Christian knows that young people are confronted by problems with which they cannot cope and are often making havoc of their lives.
Nevertheless, we are convinced that the average young person wants to know the score; he does want a spiritual confrontation and challenge, and in such a situation he often gladly capitulates to Christ as the living Saviour and makes Him the Lord of his life. It is indeed tragic that so few young people of today are confronted with such a challenge, by parents or by Church.
To write on the “predicament of youth” is useless unless one carefully evaluates the situation, much as a physician would carry out various diagnostic measures and then set up a line of procedure out of which a curative process may come.
Why are we confronted by a generation in which there is grave moral laxity and spiritual blindness? To say this situation does not exist is merely to beg the question. We recently talked with a law enforcement officer of many years, experience who literally threw up his hands at his problem—willful destruction of property, hooliganism, gang fights, open promiscuity, thievery, complete disrespect for what we call “law and order.” And on further questioning he admitted that these actions of young people do not originate “across the tracks”; they are often worse among those from homes where financial security is found and the social graces are practiced.
Basic to the problem is the undeniable fact that our young people have been let down by their elders. We live in a time when education is stressed, when the physical and hygienic welfare of children is provided for as in no other generation or land, and when the average young person has more economic security than ever before. We have done the things needed in the area of the physical and material. But we have neglected the things of the spirit.
We have forgotten for ourselves and our children that man does not live by bread alone; that he is more than an animal with animal appetites; that the values which count are eternal and not secular or material; that the higher man’s attainments in education and culture, the greater his capacity to sin—unless with these attainments there are at the same time the spiritual and moral controls that proceed solely from God and are revealed in his Word.
Parents are to blame for the predicament of youth wherever they have failed to instill in them a right sense of values, as found in the Bible.
The Church is to blame for the predicament of youth wherever it has sponsored “youth programs” that glorify the humanitarian aspects of Christian responsibility while neglecting instruction on how to become a Christian.
The Church is to blame for the predicament of both parents and children whenever it has stressed superficial or peripheral matters and neglected the spiritual verities that are the heart of the Christian faith.
If the predicament of youth is to be solved, certain things must be done; and for many the time is late—too late.
There must be a dedication, or rededication, of parents to God through faith in his Son. Furthermore, many major denominations will find it necessary to revise completely both the philosophy and the content of their youth programs.
Inherent in all of this must be a new emphasis on Bible instruction and accompanying obedience to God’s laws. Certainly a part of youth’s plight stems from teachers of “religion” who neither know nor believe the divine revelation and have in its place followed the futile and wholly ineffective results of human speculation.
The average young person is a spiritual illiterate because he has been led to relegate the Scriptures to the realm of discarded folklore, instead of knowing and studying it as the most relevant and up-to-date book in all the world. In this he is the victim of an older generation infected with deadly unbelief.
But what of that great mass of young people living beyond the reach of godly parents or Christ-centered churches? It is well enough to speak of spiritual awakening within the home, of a revitalization of the Church and her programs through a revival of interest in things that are central; but while we pray for this, something must be done about those millions of young people who are living where Christ is not known and where little is being done to reach them.
To their predicament, concerned Christians must address themselves, realizing that the warfare in which they engage is spiritual and that the weapons are spiritual. We must remember, of course that spiritual methods and weapons are often at the same time secular, material, and practical. A good meal for a beggar is a spiritual tool in reaching his soul. An intelligently organized program for young people will have secular and material props, but it will be directed to their spiritual needs and will not be sidetracked until the spiritual objective is pressed to the hilt. And these young people must be reached where they are, not where we would like them to be.
Into the vacuum caused by the spiritual anemia of many denominational programs there have come a number of non-denominational organizations, some possibly superficial in their approach, but others—such as Young Life, the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade—thoroughly Christ and Bible-centered and oriented to the needs of students and young people. Wherever permitted to do so, they actively cooperate with local churches and denominational work. It is most unfortunate that these movements are often viewed with suspicion and attacked by the churches.
The predicament of youth has no quick or easy solution. It requires prayer and dedication of parents and the Church as a whole. These young people are the victims of neglect, indifference, and the inculcation of false values by the very people who should have led them to what is good.
The Gospel of God’s grace is not bound. It continues to be the power of God unto salvation. In it are the moral and spiritual values by which alone man can live. In it alone can the predicament of youth be solved.
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