The Principle of Intergenerational Respect

Manuscript 1998
Tags: Generations; Intergenerational relations; Respect; Titus 2:1-8; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 1 Timothy 4:12
Excerpted from A Christian Perspective on the Generation Gap

Biblical Texts

Titus 2.1-8
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
2 That the aged men be sober {nephalios}, grave {semnos}, temperate {sophron}, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
nephalios: sober, temperate, abstaining from wine
semnos: to be venerated for character, honorable
sophron: self-controlled, temperate

3 The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers {diabolos}, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
diabolos: false accuser, slanderer

4 That they may teach the young women to be sober {sophronizo}, to love their husbands, to love their children,
sophronizo: to moderate, control, admonish, exhort earnestly

5 [To be] discreet {sophron}, chaste {hagnos}, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
sophron: self-controlled, temperate
hagnos: sacred, pure, modest

6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded {sophroneo}.
sophroneo: to exercise self-control, to curb one’s passions

7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine [shewing] uncorruptness {adiaphthoria}, gravity {semnotes}, sincerity {aphtharsia},
adiaphthoria: incorruptibility, soundness, integrity
semnotes: dignity, sanctity, honor
aphtharsia: incorruption, sincerity

8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

1 Timothy 5.1-2
Rebuke {epiplesso} not an elder, but intreat {parakaleo} [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren;
epiplesso: to chastise with words, chide, rebuke
parakaleo: to admonish, exhort, encourage

2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

1 Timothy 4.12
Let no man despise {kataphroneo} thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
kataphroneo: to despise, disdain, think little or nothing of


The Scriptures prescribe attitudes and behaviors appropriate to each age group and gender in the local church. In many ways the function of a church community should mirror that of a well-adjusted family. Perhaps the dominant quality which ought to characterize intergenerational relations in the church is that of mutual respect. Following is a summary of the general responsibilities of each identifiable segment of the community:

  • Older men: They are to exhibit honorable character by demonstrating self-control, particularly in the matter of abstinence from alcohol (Tit 2.2). They are to fill a fatherly role (1 Tim 5.1).
  • Older women: They are to live holy lives, exercising control of their speech and appetites (Tit 2.3). In addition, they are to pass on their virtues to younger women through example and exhortation (Tit 2.3-4). Thus they are to assume a motherly role (1 Tim 5.2).
  • Younger men: They are to exhibit self-control (Tit 2.6). They are to treat older men with respect, even when addressing their faults (1 Tim 5.1). They are to demonstrate respect for the opposite sex (1 Tim 5.2). Above all, however, they are to live their lives in an exemplary manner, such that their youth is not viewed as a weakness (1 Tim 4.12). They are to play the part of sons and brothers in the family of believers (1 Tim 5.1).
  • Younger women: They are to learn from older women the art and skill of creating a loving home environment (Tit 2.4-5). Further, they are to cultivate the virtues of self-control, purity, and submission to authority (Tit 2.5). They are to fill the role of sisters within the church family (1 Tim 5.2).


Both young and old alike must seek to maintain a healthy respect for all segments of the church community. No individual or group is exempt from the task of promoting community. Wolff (1974) notes: “In the final analysis the responsibility lies with the older generation, since it is certainly responsible for educating the young. Quite frequently the Old Testament speaks of the ‘sins of the fathers’ as the sins of the children” (p. 89-90). Later, however, he makes a balancing observation:

The younger generation can also contribute to this. First of all, the young can recognize that the advice of their parents is based on experience and is given with the child’s interest in mind (Ex. 20:12). Also, the younger generation should be big enough to see its own faults and to guard against the danger of finding aging parents peculiar or even intolerable with more or less good reason. (p. 93)

Thus there is a mutual responsibility among all parties to foster a climate of respect for all. The person who lives a godly life is worthy of praise irrespective of his or her age. Conversely, disorderly conduct is a blight on anyone’s character, regardless of age.