If Cornel West is correct, and "justice is what love looks like in public," we have two generations of kids, students, and young adults looking at the Church to see if we love in public the way we say we do in private. Generation Z (23-14 years old) is now leading in social spaces. Generation Alpha (13 years and younger) is watching today's events and getting to the age where they are questioning the behaviors of the adults around them. According to the Barna Group, Gen Z has an incredible interest in faith, but they want to know what faith has to do with love, specifically love in public. Gen Z, and younger Millennials, will raise Generation Alpha and wonder how the Church will make the world more just for their children. For the Church to resemble the love and justice that Gen Z is looking for, we need to:
Tell stories that provide context! Our children can handle concrete examples of justice and injustice. We must remember that no one, and no society, gets free while lying about who they've been. Many in Gen Z grew up with an African American President. Generation Alpha has or will have friends and classmates with two-parent homes where both individuals are the same sex. And many of them have experienced women in leadership positions. Diversity is not new to them. Because of that, we must remind them that America has a long history of injustice to give them context regarding how far we still have to go.
Love people in a way that shows the love of God! The first commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbor. This is a great time to talk about love as a verb…an action word! Love rejoices in the truth, protects others, trusts the good in people, and always hopes for the best (1 Corinthians 13: 6-7, NIV paraphrase). Look for tangible ways for your children to show love to people on the fringes of your community. Instead, it is a kid that gets bullied at school, a prayer walk or rally with your church, or going and feeding others at a local homeless shelter. Taking love from the abstract to the concrete will help them connect the private conversations about love to the public actions that further justice.
Do Justice! Love Mercy! Walk Humbly! Micah 6:8 tells us what God requires of us. Living a Christian life is not just about going to heaven but about how we show God’s love here on Earth. Justice, mercy, and humility are how we show people how much God loves them. Doing justice requires that we value every person. Loving mercy means that we forgive people who do wrong. And walking humbly means that we are open to acknowledging that we need God’s help to make the world a better place. We are working for a better world because we believe in justice. We forgive those who have carried out acts of injustice. And pray that God gives us the continued grace to be His hands and feet of love in a hurting and sometimes hostile world.
Increase our strides so they can see us increase progress! In conversations with your kids & students, remind them that each act or display that values another human being is a step towards making our whole world more just. Acts of justice and love are not quick fixes. Humanity is sinful, and the fight against that sin is ongoing. It requires more than just one action; it is a lifestyle of responding to hate with love and sin with grace. It will require all of us to treat everyone the way we want to be treated.
The Church serves as a God of love. Her people, in order to have credibility with the next generation, must exhibit the character of the God they claim to serve. There is a generation waiting to see if the people that serve a loving God will also love the people in the world.