Rehoboam followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 1 Kings 12:14
Quite recently I read a statement, written by a ‘millennial’ ministerial candidate, who has given up on the mainstream church entirely. He doesn't want to be part of the traditional institution and expressed his reason for doing so as follows: ‘I don’t want to accept what others have created.’ It sounds like a very bold and radical statement, but actually it’s not. It’s just the usual anti-disestablishmentarianism that every generation expresses, which has been going on for as long as people have been on this planet.
To me, it sounded like the original sin of Adam and Eve, when they decided to go against what God had created, in order to take what was forbidden and make themselves equal to Him. Boomers like me, and millennials like my counterpart, have constantly walked on the ledge next to the abyss of what may be described as untraditional, unfaith, and unbelief. We want to change the church and the world, but not necessarily for the better; we just want to shape them according to our own ideals, tastes, and principles. And when we do that, I strongly believe that we commit the first sin all over again, generation after generation, civilization after civilization, even denomination after denomination.
The sin of Rehoboam in today’s Bible passage (1 Kings 12:24) was similar. Both he and his peers wanted to prove that their generation was stronger, better, and more powerful than any other before them. Instead of encouraging the people by following God’s ways, Rehoboam arrogantly imposed his own demands. It was absolutely the wrong thing to do and, subsequently, it caused the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel. By rejecting the past, Rehoboam ruined his future. By forcing the people to accept his ways, he caused God to reject him.
As I see it, the challenge for every generation of Christians is not to wholly give up on past traditions. We have a long history of putting Christ at the center of who we are and what we do. The great temptation that each generational layer of our population faces is this: are we trying to reshape the church in our own image, or are we willing to be shaped by the church, which is the Bride of Christ? We should always seriously remember this – by imposing our own ways on the Church, we may actually be deposing those of God.
Questions for personal reflection
What is Church? How does it shape my Christian faith?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Head of the Church and we are Your members on Earth. Keep us from being arrogantly self-serving. Help us to be humble. Remind us that the Church is Your Bride and that we are merely called to be servants of Your Kingdom, and not masters of our own faith. In Your Holy Name, we sincerely pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is a print of John’s latest Tennessee drawing called “Smoky Mountain Dawn.” If you would like to see a larger version, please click on this link: SMDawn. If you would like to purchase a print (only $20), please send John an email to Traqair@aol.com. For a further $5, John is willing to mail the print to you or to family or friends in the United States. Contact John for details by email (50% of the proceeds will be donated by John to Erin Church’s Annual Art Exhibition Fund).