Vol. 6, No. 3
~ Page 15 ~
"Be saved from this perverse generation." These are words of Peter on Pentecost that follow the more familiar strains of Acts 2:38. Peter apparently elaborated on them to some extent, since the Holy Spirit records, "And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation'" (Acts 2:40). Wouldn't it be interesting to know the illustrations and applications that elucidated this stern and loving warning?
Perhaps Peter spoke of the rampant immorality of the Roman world, in which the Jews grudgingly resided. Perchance he spoke of corruption in leaders -- both Jewish and Roman, although it is unlikely he railed against government, for later inspired teachings command a solemn respect for the authorities (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2; 1 Timothy 2). He may have mentioned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He had already spent accusations against Christ's tormentors, and those bystanders who called for his death. He may have dwelt on that theme a while longer. It would be interesting to know, but it is obviously not necessary, or we would know.
The whole thought, though, gives rise to the question of what times in history such a homily would be appropriate. Is every generation perverse? Are there some better than others? To this author's mind, with limited historical knowledge, the application seems timeless. Every generation has its righteous people, and, conversely, its wicked. The wicked, as per Jesus' prediction (Matthew 7:14,15), outnumber the godly. Never is there an age that cannot fit this description.
Nevertheless, some generations seem to do better than others do. Penitent generations in the period of the Judges enjoyed rewards of rest and peace (cf. Judges 3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28). Israel's history reads of alternating adherents of idolatry and truth. A recent best seller chronicles accounts illustrating the courage, tenacity and strength of heart of the World War II generation. Yes, some societies, for a time, do better than others do. But, the applicability of Peter's designation "perverse generation" can still be echoed. No matter how good a culture becomes, sin remains on the earth, and salvation is needed.
Thus, Paul echoed that through obedience citizens of earth can present themselves "blameless ...in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation..." (Philippians 2:12-15). He can instruct those raised to new life in Christ to set their minds on things above and let their behavior so reflect the renewed mindset (Colossians 3:1-17; cf. Romans 12:2).
So, where is our generation -- better or worse? In one sense, it doesn't really matter. Oh, we hope for a generation that does more good than evil. We long for a time span in which people turn more to God than to their own hedonistic pleasures. But, whatever the generation of the day does, Christians are obligated -- by God's grace -- to rise above it. As long as earth stands, sin will stain it. Only those who obediently cleanse themselves will sustain the escape from perversity. They are the ones who will shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15), and receive the reward of glory (Colossians 3:4).