“Without individuals, nothing changes. Without institutions, nothing survives.” So said French philosopher and statesman Maurice Talleyrand. He concluded there is a need for both the maverick individual who seeks to disturb the status quo, as well as the company man who presides over the equilibrium. We, Jim and Nick, both represent voices from generations that epitomize each caricature.
One of us is an Uber-riding, selfie-taking, student debt-accumulating, norm-bucking individual. Don't group him, because 'nobody puts baby in a corner.' He defies your labels but admires your fascination. He is a millennial, someone born between 1980-1997, and he has the participation trophies to prove it.
The other one is a boomer, not the Oklahoma type. He is known as a company man, as loyal as the day is long. You work hard, earn your stripes, and then receive your reward. Whereas one of us grew up in an age where transparency is king, the other one grew up following the adage that “familiarity breeds contempt.” You mind your business, I will take care of my business, and we will get along just fine.
But today, we both find ourselves working side-by-side. As we work, differences emerge. One is skeptical towards the institution and its pace; the other is leading the institution through unchartered waters. One is is sending emails and working at his computer late into the night; the other is the first one in the office. One thinks he possess the skills to lead; the other has paid his dues and is leading.
Our way of working may be different, but the goal of what we are working towards is the same: bringing glory to our King by doing everything with excellence and making disciples in His name.
We can’t concentrate on our differences because the work is equally urgent and important. We must set our sights on the prize and run towards the goal which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. As we run towards the God of grace, we must extend that very same grace to each other.
But true grace can only be extended in a relationship of love. We both want what is best, but the way to best often looks different. Thus, it requires us to find points of agreement, seek to get to the bottom of the differences, and compromise if possible. For the millennial, not every hill is worth fighting over. For the boomer, not every hill is worth dying on. "In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity."
Each one of us has something to learn from the other. But the only way to learn is to assume a humble posture towards each other. David Brooks spoke of humility as “the freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time.” The goal of making disciples is too urgent to be flouting past accomplishments or touting current positions. Heaven and hell are on the line.
Jesus prayed for his followers across time "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21). Our Lord knew that divisions in His body would hinder our ministry and witness. When the world sees Christians fighting with each other, why would they want to join us? Jesus also knew that unity was and is a great enticement to the faith. When the world sees Christians working together, they are more likely to want the love and community they see in us.
Dr. Jim Dension, founder and president of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, and Nick Pitts, special assistant to the president, co-authored this article. Subscribe to Nick Pitts’ The Daily Briefing, a Bible-based cultural commentary on today’s news.