The ‘Second Generation’ Syndrome

The book of Joshua is a high point in the bible - the people loved God and did what they were told, so God gave them victory. The next book, Judges, spirals into lowest points of depravity - and all by God’s people. It screws up everything.

What makes the change? The opening chapters of Judges explain:

“After that whole [Joshua] generation had been gathered to their fathers [ie died], another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

In spite of all the victory and wonders, somehow, somehow, that wonderful relationship the people had with God failed to be passed on to the second generation. You wonder what went wrong. Who was at fault? Did the Joshua generation not tell them clearly enough? Were the second generation just so stubborn? Whatever the case, there’s a very sober warning for us as a church: avoid the second generation syndrome.

It could take various forms. Here are three possibilities:

[1] We could be that second generation. Christians who have gone before us, possibly even those who told us about the life-giving message of Jesus, lived wholeheartedly for him. We must avoid the tragedy of being complacent where they were not, being casual about what they took seriously, being lazy where they worked hard, being cold-hearted towards Jesus where their hearts were on fire.
[2] Our children could be that second generation. It’s so easy for those who have grown up in Christian families to not appreciate the wonder of God’s salvation. If our children take it for granted, it would spell disaster. We’re to keep reminding them of how wonderful Jesus is so they would never forget it.
[3] We could create that second generation. Not just with our children, but with all who we pass on the gospel to - or fail to. We would be at fault if we settled for a casual telling people about Jesus. Jesus himself told us to ‘make disciples’ - that is, followers. In other words, we need to teach people to truly love Jesus, and rigorously follow him. Otherwise, we’ve sold them short of the true wonder of knowing God.