“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
The book of Job is arguably one of the most frequently looked at stories in the Bible. We take lessons from it about perseverance, faithfulness, finding God in our trials, trusting in God and the list continues. These lessons from Job give us strength and hope to endure whatever issues or challenges we are facing. As a young adult, this is invaluable to me and the remembrance of these particular passages of Scripture has comforted me with the knowledge that God has a plan for my life. Being involved with Young Adult Life has opened my eyes to the ways that young adults can be a force for God and for the church, if given the chance.
I come from a home church that is supportive of its young adults and I have been mentored by pastors that believe that young adults deserve a voice and a say in the future of our church family, but not everyone has had the same experience that I have. YAs from all over the world are struggling with a religion that is close to their hearts and yet has either not taken a stand at all or has taken a stand against issues that we young adults deal with every day. Many Adventist young adults see the church as exclusive, doubtless, shallow, repressive, overprotective, and anti-science, a perspective which may not apply to every Adventist YA, but has affected enough of us that the number of Adventist YAs leaving the church and not returning is increasing at an alarming rate . I may be speaking from an isolated perspective, but this worries me, especially because I agree with several of these issues. The church that I grew up with, that I love, is running the risk of losing an enormously talented and passionate generation of young people because of 1) an unwillingness to listen and 2) a young adult generation that is unsure of how to approach church leadership and make our voices heard. Now, this blog entry began with a reference to Job, a man who was proven to be blameless and upright, who feared God and who shunned evil. What, you may ask, does this have to do with young adults and the issues of the Adventist church?
Job cried out to God, asking for an explanation, and the three “friends” that were with him fell silent because Job was “righteous in his own eyes” . His peers could not convince him of anything because Job knew that he had not done anything to deserve what had happened and demanded that God explain his suffering.
A man whose name I have never heard spoken before by any pastor, speaker, or teacher – a man who saw fault in Job and was not afraid to speak out. What do we know about him? We know that he is of the family of Ram and he is the son of Barachel the Buzite and, most importantly for this story, that he is years younger than Job and his friends. “Now because they were years older than he, Elihu had waited to speak to Job.” Elihu, for all intents and purposes, is a young adult in the eyes of Job and his friends, and his story has taught me a 3 step approach to bringing up those topics that I am hesitant to discuss with church leadership and those that I consider my elders.
1) He is respectful – “I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention.”
I think that this may be the most important item to glean from Elihu’s speech. He does not interject or interrupt when his elders are speaking, he does not scoff or make fun of their statements. He waits until they have finished speaking in order to make sure that he affords them the respect they deserve – even though he believes they are completely wrong. Knowing or believing in your heart that someone is mistaken is never an excuse to belittle their opinions or disrespect their person. Respect is the first step in having your message heard.
2) He is confident in his words because of their origin in Scripture and his knowledge of the character of God- “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.”
Elihu is not afraid to speak up about what he sees in these four men that have argued for a long time about Job, his sins, and why God has punished him in this way. Elihu sees that Job is accusing God of acting unfairly and chastens him for acting as though God is accountable to human beings for his actions. When we bring up our concerns for the church, we must be sure that they are a result of careful study and understanding of God’s Word. Not hurt feelings or a perceived slight.
3) He states his arguments with passionate reason – “Now, I open my mouth; My tongue speaks in my mouth. My words come from my upright heart; My lips utter pure knowledge. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
The issues of the church cannot be discussed without affecting emotions, but Elihu’s example shows us that we can be passionate while still being reasonable. When the discussion becomes an argument is when there is a breakdown and I, for one, do not wish to engage in an argument with someone that I respect. Nor do I respect other young adults that merely complain about the actions of the church without doing anything to try to change it. Elihu should be an example to young adults in his approach to his statements and his fearlessness in approaching a sensitive topic.
4) He is inclusive – “Hear my words, you wise men; Give ear to me, you who have knowledge. For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose justice for ourselves; Let us know among ourselves what is good.”
5) Finally, and one of the most important parts of his speech, is that Elihu does not separate himself from the others in terms of who he is. He knows that he is human and makes mistakes, just as Job and his friends have done. He invites them to join him in discovering what is good and what is just, instead of merely preaching to them and keeping himself out of it.
I believe that this type of inclusion is what is missing in many of our churches today. The understanding that our church is multi-generational and should be learning from each other instead of drawing battle lines is absent from our conversations and discussions about the future of the church. Elders of the church, do not be afraid to learn from those that are younger than you. Young adults, do not be fearful or disrespectful when addressing your church leadership, but follow the example of Elihu and speak respectfully, passionately and reasonably because you are secure in the knowledge that your words stem from God’s Word.
Job 1 – New International Version
Jenkin, C. & Martin, A. A. (2014, May). Engaging Adventist millennials: A church that embraces relationships. Ministry Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2014/05/engaging-adventist-millennials
Job 32:1 – New King James Version
Job 32:4 – New King James Version
Job 32:11 – New King James Version
Job 32:8, 9 – New King James Version
Job 33:2-4 – New King James Version