Today my middle son turns thirteen. This means, for those who are keeping track, that we have three teenagers in the house. My son, David, in the faith system of His savior, is now a man. If he were living in Palestine in the days of Jesus, tomorrow would be his Bar Mitzvah (bar [בר] is a Jewish-Aramaic word meaning ‘son’ and mitzvah [מצוה] is a Jewish word meaning ‘a commandment’). David would become a “son of the commandment” and be considered responsible for his standing before God. This all leaves me with one question: is he really ready for that responsibility?
The Bible contains a whole bunch of lists seeking to capture the essence of a godly character: there is a fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5 telling us that those who walk in the Spirit have love, joy peace…and 6 more facets; there is the description of Christian leaders in 1 Timothy 3 which includes temperance and hospitableness… as a start; there is the list of ‘clothes’ in Colossians 3 which commands God’s chosen people to wear compassion, kindness and the like. Is David really ready for all these lists?
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8 (NIV)
One of God’s many blessings toward David, and my whole family, is that we do not live in Palestine in the days of Jesus. Our culture is so greatly different than that of the Middle East two millennia ago – a longer life expectancy, a prolonged childhood, a service-based economic system, and a systematic educational system all make turning thirteen much different today than at the turn of the first century. Instead of starting a family and establishing himself in the family business, my son’s primary interest as a thirteen year-old is starting a Twitter handle and establishing himself on Facebook. It is a different world we live in than the world of the Bible.
There is a development distinction we carry, however, even to this day about teenagers. Theirs is the age of burgeoning independence and self-awareness. It seems prudent, then, that my wife and I begin the process of extracting the man that dwells in the boy we’ve raised for the last thirteen years. As my boy engages his world, I want him to have compassion and kindness. As he interacts with peers and superiors, I want him to exude grace and goodness. While he may not be seen as a man socially or culturally, he is essentially one biologically and spiritually. How I pray that He is a good man.
Today my middle son becomes a man. It is too soon to tell if he will be a man formed in the pattern of the culture (marked by most with aggression and ambition) or in the pattern of the Creator (marked by Him with a heart for sacrifice and service). I hope he lives up to his namesake and becomes a man after God’s own heart.