In the same way that youth can be scornful of the wisdom and experience of their elders (see 2 Chron. 10: 8), so those who are older can be dismissive of those that are young (see 1 Sam. 17; 18, 33). Among Christians, these things ought not to be so, for we are to be “kindly affectioned towards one another: as to honour, each taking the lead in paying it to the other” (Rom. 12: 10). All need to remember that “the glory of young men is their strength; and the beauty of old men is the grey head” (Prov. 20: 29). The one speaks of energy, and the other speaks of experience, and both are essential.
The young believer will be full of questions. This is only to be expected, for he will not have the knowledge that an older person will have accumulated over many years. Scripture both expects young people to ask questions, and older people to provide answers: “And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? That thou shalt say to him …” (Exod. 13: 14). Older brethren ought not to resent questions or react defensively. If we are to be “always prepared to [give] an answer” (1 Pet. 3: 15) to the unbeliever as to what we hold to be true, how much more so to young Christian!
Of course there is a difference between an enquiring mind, and someone simply bent on questioning everything for the sake of it. The one is a seeker after light, but the intent of the other is destructive. However, it is too easy to dismiss ‘awkward questions’ as being the product of a bad state. All of us need questions we cannot answer, however long we have been in the pathway of faith. Why? Because then we are driven back to the Word of God in order to find the answer. Both young and old will then grow in the knowledge of divine things. Too many Bible readings are fairly insipid affairs where the ‘traditional’ interpretation never really has to justify itself. Challenging older brethren in an unsubject way is condemned by Scripture (see 1 Pet. 5: 5), but there is nothing wrong with challenging questions! If we nurture the idea that the young must blindly accept the established position then we are, in principle, little different from Roman Catholicism. We study the Scriptures together in order to be taught of God, not simply to repeat what we have read in respected commentaries. The Holy Spirit may use older, gifted brothers to provide edifying teaching. He may also use younger, unlearned brothers to ask searching questions!
Young believers abandon Christian companies for all kinds of reasons, some bad and some good. Many are attracted elsewhere, often because these places appear to have the answers, even though those better acquainted with the Bible know that the answers are wrong. It is all too easy to criticize these young people when, in reality, a measure of fault belongs to those who are older for not properly explaining “the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which Jehovah our God hath commandeth” (Deut. 6: 20). Instead of just assuming that the young will just ‘slot into place’ as time goes by, older brethren need to take the time to nurture their faith. If questions from young people simply elicit a retreat into a defensive position, then we should not be surprised if the average age of the Christian company continues to rise, and its numbers weaken.