Learn From Teenagers

Veronica Burlock, Worship Pastor, Wheaton | May 14, 2024

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law, and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

I love teenagers! I spend a lot of time around them. I have mentored many girls over the years and I truly believe they are the best age group for many different reasons: they are real and not afraid to tell you the truth about yourself; they can smell a facade a mile away; and they appreciate authenticity so much so that they gravitate towards it. I feel like God has given me a certain wisdom and insight to understand them. 

As I’ve spent time with them over the years, I’ve learned so much from them. The one thing I can say about most teenagers is that they are slow to judge, especially teenagers who love the Lord and really try to live for Him. Most of them are quicker to learn and try to understand a situation before judging. There’s a thing or two we can learn from the younger generation.

In this passage, James is talking to a group of believers—not to people who don’t know God or follow Him, but believers who know His word and try to live by it. Why is this important? Because people who don’t know the Lord wouldn’t know what God says about how to live. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). So, if you judge a fellow believer, you’re judging the law that commands us to love others. As believers, we get to practice showing mercy and grace as we do our best to live into God’s truth.

Life offers opportunities for us to learn and grow. When we see or hear something that we don’t understand or agree with, it is an opportunity to practice grace and truth and educate ourselves about the situation—not cast judgment and spread rumors. 

As a small group leader, I’ve sat around many circles and learned from the conversations that happened between teenagers. They ask questions for clarity, not for a rebuttable. They listen to understand and gain a different perspective. They can agree to disagree in love. It’s quite amazing. I always walk away from those conversations asking myself certain questions: Am I listening just to respond, or am I listening to understand? Am I open to learning something new? Am I open to a different perspective? Am I showing grace? 

There’s only one Lawgiver and Judge who is able to save and destroy (Jas. 4:12). When I judge, I’m stepping into God’s role. We never know what personal convictions a person has or doesn’t have. I don’t watch or listen to certain TV shows and music because of my personal convictions. But I don’t judge others who listen or watch those things. Just because the Holy Spirit convicted me of those things doesn’t mean He has for everyone else. He is the Lawgiver. If he tells me not to do something and gives another permission to do that same thing, who am I to judge that person? Let’s be open to learning from the younger generation. Learn to be more like teenagers.

Next Steps

Think of a time when you have judged someone else—perhaps their looks, political views, or even the way they carry out their faith. Spend a few quiet moments with God to repent and ask forgiveness from the True Judge. Then, ask His help to change your ways. Thank Him that we need not do anything in our own strength!