Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are?

What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?...Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children.- from Jeremiah, Chapter 2.

TV shows that feature celebrities tracing their ancestry (such as TLC's Who Do You Think You Are and PBS's Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) finally tempted me to adopt a habit that (almost) grew into an addiction: tracing my own roots. It's fascinating. My great-great-great-great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary war. This is supposed to be a badge of honor, and to be perfectly honest, I am proud of this, though I'm not sure why. Other ancestors owned slaves, and of that I am ashamed, though again, it happened long before I was born, so I am not sure why this embarrasses me. 

God takes the long view about human values and human behavior. Real change in a culture can take a long time. Big changes can be generations in the making. We don't tend to think this is the case so much anymore, because we have seen revolutionary changes in our lifetime. For example, I learned to type on a typewriter. My kids learned that same skill on a computer. Their children may not even need to learn how to type--modern technology may enable a new way of communicating that will render the skill of typing completely obsolete. Even now, there is voice recognition software that can type for people as they speak. However, in spite of the rate of change, human nature remains the same. Twitter changes the way revolutionaries communicate with one another, but the underlying conditions that lead to revolutions have not changed much since Jeremiah's time. 

It doesn't seem fair that my grandchildren may be held accountable for some mistake I made, but that's not what Jeremiah is talking about. He is talking about the need for Israel to make big changes in ways that the changes can be sustained for generations. My 4-times great grandfather's wartime service might have been for nothing had the new nation not carefully hammered out a Constitution to help succeeding generations continue to build on the great deeds of their ancestors. That's what God is talking about--the importance of changing for the better and instilling these improved values in our children so they will pass them onto their children.

What does that mean for us today? What changes is God calling our generation to make and pass on to our children's children? In America it seems that there isn't much consensus on "what ails us," but I also think that a growing number of individuals are putting increasing pressure on leaders in the government to work toward consensus when possible. In the meantime, what changes is God calling us to make as individuals and as the church? In the past year or two I have heard more and more voices talking about this, and I think that is a good thing. I have my own ideas, of course, but the point of this blog post is not to push for my own agenda, but rather to stimulate thinking and conversation about where you think God is calling the people of God to be in a couple of generations.

Who do you think you are? Who do you think God wants you to become? What do you think God wants you to pass on to your children and grandchildren, or if you are not a parent, to the next two generations to come?

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