Respecting Us Seasoned Saints
We live in an age and a culture which does not honor older people. Conventional wisdom from church growth experts teaches us that people who are over 50 do not count. The fact is the Bible sees this issue from a radically different direction.
We begin our journey in Leviticus 19:32 where we read, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.” In Bible school and seminary I was taught the book of Leviticus was somewhat of a handbook for priests. Still, it contained strong guidelines for everyday life for every Jewish person. I know that this verse is part of the Law and was greatly influenced by the Middle Eastern custom. Yet, this is a commandment not uniquely tied to the Old Testament Covenant nor the Land. The LORD commands Israel to honor those who are older and hopefully wiser because honoring gray-headed folks, who walk in fellowship withGod. honors the LORD Himself.
God did not just say this in Leviticus, He repeated the concept in passages like Proverbs 16:31. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.” If you are older and you are committed to righteousness, to doing God’s will because He saved you, God says your age should be a thing of honor and beauty. God respects our age if we are seeking to please Him.
This sentiment is not just contained in the Old Testament. We read in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” In short, the Bible teaches older people are not to be despised. Rather, they are to be honored. We, who are of this group, must also show ourselves as people whose relationship with God is real and our holiness palpable. I have known folks to whom God was so real and a part of their lives that I thought I could touch it. They really lived as if God matters.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1Timothy 4:12) You might be saying to yourself. “I am not young. I am like David wrote in the Psalms. “I once was young and now am Old.” This is true, but what young preachers are supposed to be, we, who are gray-headed, should be also.
We are to be an example to all in word. This is probably a reference to speech more than the Word of God. We should speak in the way Paul instructed us. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6). We also should be a people of the book. In our advanced years, we should know more of the Bible and be able to share it with others.
We should be an example in our conduct. We should live our lives recognizing that others are watching. The New Testament contains a plethora of verses which command us to live lives that show the reality of our relationship with Christ. We need to be people of integrity and honesty. In other words. we should stive with the Lord’s help to be “A Sermon in Shoes.”
In love. Do you realize how many times God calls us to love Him and one another? We love God and our brothers and sisters in Christ because we know that He loved us first. Love begins with a decision and becomes and emotion.
In Faith. This is a quality that we need to work on with the Lord’s continual help. I find the older I am the harder it is to trust. In Psalm 56:3, David cites his decision, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” How are you at trusting? I find myself responding to the Lord as the father of the boy who was demon possessed boy in Mark 9:24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; ‘help my unbelief!’” We are determined to believe, but we realize we need the Lord to continually help with our faith.
Finally, we need to be an example in purity. We live in a world immersed in sin and impurity. We believers must stand out as lights in this dark world, holding forth the word of life. Are the cultivation of these graces a priority in this life? Will others find us faithful servants of God even in our later years?