Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Babel Reversed

Pentecost is often viewed as Babel Reversed. In both stories, there was a divine send-off, but what contrasts! Where at Pentecost God brought understanding to His people regardless of their language, at Babel (Gen 11) God confused the rebel's understanding by dividing the languages. Where at Pentecost the result was gathering and fellowship, at Babel the result was dispersion and alienation.

What made the difference? And can we learn from these examples to transform the experience of releasing our young adults into the gateway for renewed fellowship?

Notice first, that a dispersion for the purpose of extending God's rule in the world was God's aim both at Babel and at Pentecost. Whether He was dealing with rebels or with true sons, the send-out was non-optional. So it's clear that the progress both of individuals' maturity and the advancement of Christ's cause depends on a certain amount of healthy distance that will give scope to each person's activity. If we have been training our children to transform the world, they aren't going to be able to do that forever from our living rooms - under normal circumstances.

Our choices, both as parents and as children, seem to be: separating with alienation and confusion or separating with deeper unity and understanding.

At Babel, God addressed rebel sons. Their sin was that typical adolescent attitude, "I'm and adult now. I can do whatever I want!" They said, "Let us make a name for ourselves. Let us make a tower whose top reaches to heaven." They were grasping for power and independence without a commission, without reference to their responsibilities, without reference to their calling as sons of God.

It is difficult for young adults, as they come into adult-sized capacities, to wait to exercise those powers on their own. What they usually fail to realize is that larger capacities mean larger risks and responsibilities, not just more power. The true test of maturity is whether those young people will rein in those plunging stallions-within long enough to master them. Young adults must ask themselves: will I master the possibilities or will I be mastered by them instead? Will I determine to use my emerging power only at the command of God or will I use it up on my own agendas?

The result of racing out without a commission is alienation and confusion. You can see this in families when parents and teens are using the same words, but meaning different things. Or perhaps the definitions for rebellion or for forbidden activities and attitudes begin to morph. Whoever is changing the definitions is trying to control the situation. But the best they will be able to do is to limit the damage that those ungoverned powers can do.

If this is happening in your family, mourn, but not without hope. As God is gracious, there can be a Pentecost for you and yours beyond the separations.

Stay tuned for the flip side...

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