Acts 15:36-41
The Troubles Of Mark The Youth

Authored By Rev. Chen Tientsu, Taiwan Presbyterian Church, currently on mission at Osaka Nozomi Church, Osaka, Japan

1. When problems and various things come up as they do and we take a careful look at them, we normally weigh it all according to the results of the information that we obtain at the time.

2.  Humanity's social contexts, ideas, activities, and religions vary like mother nature, but [we] may not necessarily have reason in particular to feel taken aback or afraid [by the overwhelming nature of it all].  But, doesn't living in a three generation household in this modern time where the ways of thinking and actions vary greatly from one another show a problem that we need to heed?  I think the cases of juvenile crime, which is particularly becoming an issue today, is especially a warning that shows us something [we had better look at].

3.  It doesn't matter if we're talking about the past, the present or the future, in all the different periods of time, I suppose young people have had problems.  But, doesn't it just seem true that the different problems of the young people [today] are more often than not intensified, more complicated or even getting more cruel?  I think that youth problems are found within all the homes in which youth live.  I even think it is not only present within the homes of the general public, but it is found universally even in Christian homes.  We had better listen to the thoughts of our troubled youth and so that we don't cause more problems, we had better support them in understanding and help them solve their problems.

4.  According to the scriptures, Mark as a youth lived in Jerusalem.  Back at that time it was about when the church had just been established.  His mother was a zealous christian.  Everybody assembled at their house often for [church] services.  The boy named Mark was raised in such a home environment as this.

5.  Mark often heard that Paul went with his relative Barnabbas to Gentile places to evangelize and he thought it would be great if they would bring him along with them on the evangelistic missions.  And one day finally he did happily get to go with them.  But, soon after, along the journey, when they got to a placed called Pamphylia, young Mark abruptly departed from Barnabbas and Paul and went back to Jerusalem.  Paul got so mad that he would not forgive [and forget] that Mark had left them.  Then when Paul and Barnabbas began their second missionary journey Barnabbas suggested that they take Mark along once again, but Paul refused him.  Barnabbas was not happy about this, and worse he decided not to go with Paul on the evangelistic mission.  As we read this passage we might perhaps be inclined to think from one perspective that the boy was no good.  For example, we might think that the young Mark was selfish and spoiled and wouldn't put out a lot of effort.

6.  Going on mission with Paul was certainly tough.  Not to mention the fact that we could just as well claim that the road to Antioch was the most dangerous path [to travel] back then.  Therefore, in not being able to take the bitterness of the mission journey he would probably just give up like you'd expect and go back home.  But, if we look at this from Mark's perspective, there would be a huge difference.

7.  The Bible commentator [William] Barclay takes a view that seeks to understand Mark's separation and looks at Mark.  In regard to the question of why Mark fled Paul, Barclay surmises that Mark might have resented the usurpation of Paul upon the leadership position of his relative Barnabbas.  Or it might even have been that since Mark was born and raised in Jerusalem he had doubts of the possibility to evangelize Gentiles.  And some think since Mark was still a boy and had selfish thoughts he might have been zealous at first, but he gave up quick.

8.  Either way, it can't be that Mark left for no reason.  Sure it might be that young Mark had problems, but still since Paul, kind of like his father, was absorbed in the mission, had no time to hear the troubles of young Mark's heart or try to understand him, Mark got lonely, turned around and ran [home].

9.  All of you brothers and sisters, do you have a home without a young person?  Is the church without young persons?  Are you unconcerned and in a daze over your work that is so important to you even though there are youth nearby?  Even in the church there are young people, but the faith of us adults is unconcerned; don't many people think that since they're not my kids I should just let them go?

10.  What kind of minds and what kind of environments are today's youth being born and raised in?  You might say that kids in their teens and twenties are the second generation after the war.  The people in this age bracket are being called "The New New Breed."*

11.  As the daily lives of the people during and after the war was hard, people couldn't accomplish the lives that they saw in their dreams, but they hoped it would come true in the next generation.  In those days when it came to the parents' plans for their children's education everyone held high expectations and strong interests in the education of their children, so they had to pay good money, if their child had the strength, to [go take] private lessons outside regular school and made them go through [the after hours classes] with all their might.  So, each and every child used to have 6 sets of parental eyes** on them.  These were six sets of guiding eyes of love and expectations upon them, which included four grandparents and two parents.

12.  Kids did their best to follow their parents expectations, but not all kids met their parents' wishes, right? But if they did it was great.  Both the parent and the child were happy.  But, now how are things?  Nowadays kids seem to be what they call this New New Breed not knowing suffering and being raised in a time when they get whatever they want or get to eat whatever they want.  Since their parents spoil them, make them the center of the home, and treat them like precious jewels, they end up selfish.

13.  [But], they don't meet their expectations, they don't make enough effort, they regret the pressure of the anger and the expectations of their parents, or even that they want self expression, independence and freedom, but in acting selfishly in their experimentation and not seeing into [their] deep problems or [in not having] the knowledge to see various things in a fresh way, they end up caught up in complex problems and in worrisome minds.  In times like that they should not be troublemakers, right?  Since at such a time the relationships between child and parent or teacher and student are easy to get in a state of tension, relationships with all people become uneasy.  At such at time, what can you do?  Getting mad serves no purpose and we should not be unconcerned.  At such a time shouldn't we try to understand the world of the youth's mind, be interested, supportive, and gently give them direction to the right path?  Rather than recommending ideas that have already gotten old to them, for example, obtaining future status and wealth through hard work and diligence, it would be better to understand their desires, for example, what youth are looking for is that they want to be part of something, they trust their friends*** and want friends of the opposite sex.

14.  But, the troubles of a youth go away some day.  Even the troubles of the youth Mark were overcome without really knowing when.  In Second Timothy 4:11, Paul says to Timothy, "Please bring Mark along with you.  Because he helps me well in my tasks."  Mark certainly left off the evangelistic journey for a brief spell, but through the support, trust, and understanding of his relative Barnabbas, Mark, whose heart had been filled with contradictions, doubts, unease, and troubles, at last became an adult whom Paul later agreed with and recognized.  In consequence, he became an excellent assistant to Paul and was a good preaching partner.

15.  The church is not a club, neither is it an organization that humankind has built.  God is concerned for all different peoples and peoples in all different times and he saves them.  Even our church, through the consent of its members, has been able to assemble the youth.  The purpose of assembling our young people is to encourage the specific education of the youth and the work of the gospel, and to support the church with them, and to serve God with them.  It is the responsibility of the whole church in whether or not the youth meetings are going in the right direction.  If with one heart we care, are supportive and intercede, they will not proceed down a crooked path.

16.  In this time period in which we have a high occurrence of juvenile crimes, I think, before it's too late, at the very least, we must be active in a positive way in the mission towards the youth around our church.  For the souls of the youth to be saved, so that the youth overcome temptation and troubles, take a stand, and become mature persons besides, the adults will want to become a people who are filled with the Holy Spirit in faith with them from now on and be concerned for them, supportive, understanding, encouraging, and able to lend a hand.

End Notes

* Please keep in mind that the preacher speaks Chinese, but is preaching in Japanese.  He is also serving as the youth minister at Osaka Nozomi Church.  "The New New Breed" -- About ten years ago, I asked a Japanese friend of mine what Shinjinrui meant and he said the word was no longer in use.  So, this is an old fashioned word now given a new twist.  I think it goes back to the post World War II generation where the new mentality of modernism is born.  It deals with individuality and its many expressions.  It also symbolizes lawlessness and change.  It reminds me of the English word used a generation ago, "beatnik."  It refers to a new way of being Japanese. It is counterproductive to the strong sense of community in this island nation and is an encapsulation of the idea of the general breakdown of Japanese society.

** He uses slang here and then makes a pun of it in the next sentence.  He says kids used to have six "sacks, bags" which is slang for "momma, mama, mommy, mom [think of the kangaroo pouch, or the womb that enclosed the fetus]."  He calls it later  "the moms of love," or "the sacks of love."  Kids used to have loads of love and hope in their lives through their parents and grandparents concern for them.

*** Not sure what he means.  Perhaps to copy one's friends, to take on their nature and behaviors.

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