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1142 Understanding Millennials PART THREE

Why are millennials prone to embrace “social justice?”

IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING 

Understanding Millennials PART THREE

Based on my previous article in this series, we should be aware of the tremendous potential in the millennial generation for bringing change to our world. They are a highly empathetic and justice-oriented generation. With their mastery of technology, they can (and do) connect globally, support, and execute “causes for justice” anywhere in the world without leaving their sofa.

According to some researchers, millennials are justice-oriented primarily because they have the freedom and security to be that way. Of course, other factors like technology play a part, but here’s perhaps the primary reason. This generation is inundated with tragedy. Social media spread bad news instantly. They grow up hearing of all the bad things happening to people, leading them to desire justice for them. This is often problematic. Justice has many faces and it takes first-hand experience to realize that they’re not all good. For example, millennials are easy prey for “social-justice” protest leaders whose motives have nothing to do with justice.

Let’s return to the freedom and security mindset. The millennial generation never had to fight for their freedom. They know nothing of living through the Great Depression. They never had to worry about putting food on the table. Freedom from all this was purchased by previous generations who handed it to them. Since they aren’t concerned with such trivialities as survival, they are free to concentrate on themselves and what they want to be. They feel entitled to their dreams, but not because others paid the cost. They’re entitled just because they’re special.

So, where did they learn this? From their parents and teachers-the Baby Boomers. In their zeal to affirm their children and teach them about fairness, they focused on unfounded self-esteem at the expense of developing their natural inclinations to pursue a goal. This approach spawned an entire generation that dismisses both success and failure. As they grow older, however, they become dissatisfied with merely participating. They develop a hunger for purpose. They want to be recognized as having individual value.

This desire has propelled them into a recognition frenzy that has turned them into collectors instead of victors. What do they collect? Facebook and Twitter Followers. The more followers, the more they feel recognized. To them, the attention they receive reveals their self-worth. The more active they are on social media, the more self-confident they feel. This affects their view of the world around them.

With this focus on self-actualization, they see themselves as saviors of society. There’s nothing they can’t do to help society. Why? Because they’re special. They won’t want to admit it, but many millennials in the church may have this mindset, even though they’ve never put it in these terms. Their desire to serve may be driven by a mindset that is antithetical to the Christian mandate to die to self, not nurture it.

A true servant heart is impossible without absolute surrender to our Lord. Only then will we be fulfilling our Lord’s commands instead of fulfilling our desires for justice. When surrender finally comes, we find that justice is the last thing we want, for anyone. If we received justice from our Lord, we’d all be dead. When we finally surrender and become Christ’s bond-slave, our joy comes from doing our Master’s will, not any “justice” we think we’ve brought.

AS I SEE IT

This kind of surrender is difficult for all of us, not just millennials. It took me 35 years. Yet, through intimate relationships through which I can share my journey, I can show my new millennial friends the joys and very practical benefits of giving it all to Jesus while they are young and save them from some unnecessary spiritual detours.

Another challenge in discipling millennials is combating the relativism of the postmodern culture they were raised in-a culture with no absolutes. Millennials who respond to Christ’s call to salvation may see the Christian life as a fluid, ever-changing framework into which they will struggle to find their place. We must stress the never-changing goal of oneness with Jesus in an ever-growing intimate relationship-that Christ may be formed in us. Our goal is Him, not what He offers, or what He teaches. He is our joy. Their relationship with Him will satisfy every unfulfilled longing. He is the goal-the prize.

This is possible only if they accept God’s unconditional and unfailing love for them, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. This is hard for millennials to grasp. They need to see three principles actually being played out in their church if they are to untangle the confusion regarding love so prevalent in the “me generation.”

Unconditional love esteems.¬†Regarding other more highly than ourselves (Phil. 2:3) simply because they are God’s creation is a foreign concept to many millennials. All the emphasis on self-esteem has left them believing that serving others is still about them. Eventually, all this self-love leaves them feeling empty. This void must be filled with the knowledge of God’s grace in which God loves us unconditionally just because He wants to. Millennials long to see this acted out in the church.

¬†Unconditional love values truth.¬†Millennials have grown up confused about the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Part of authentic love involves speaking truth in a godly way. Millennials must be trained to know, respect and proclaim God’s truth, but with love, gentleness and kindness. They need to see this modeled in the church.

Unconditional love invests. Many millennials, having formed few meaningful relationships, tend to church-hop. They are skeptical that relationships can be stable and enduring. This provides a barrier to them entering into a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. They need to see real lasting relationships that result in the body caring for its members. What millennials need most from the church is to be directed to, grounded in, and lavished with the unconditional love of God.

I’d like to conclude this series with some personal observations. I’ve learned to be delighted to see this generation worshiping in a church instead of being “concerned” over how they’re dressed. I’ve learned that while I have very little in common with most millennials (I have no clue what they’re talking about most of the time), there are areas where we can connect and even build a relationship. I can help them grow in Christ if I keep in mind what I’ve learned from this series. Finally, I can learn a lot from them. Their approaches to a lot of things will probably help me to see things from a different perspective, and that can be a very good thing.

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