You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
If you look at the average church bulletin or website, you’ll probably come across some listing of various extracurriculars: a cradle roll, a toddler program, kids’ activities, youth group, Bible studies, the seniors club. You’ll also find that these groups do different things: the toddlers sing, “Jesus Loves Me;” the youth group paints the basement; the adults make coffee between services. People gather with others like themselves, and one of the most obvious classifications is age. All people naturally fall somewhere on the age spectrum and have corresponding interests.
Looking even more closely at the people in these socially organized groups, you may notice that as their interests vary, so do their sins. Toddlers throw blocks. High schoolers disrespect their teachers. Adults slack on the job. Whether young or old, each of us has an old Adam, a sinful identity that completely corrupts us. God is much more concerned with this old Adam than he is with our age. He was so concerned about the old Adam in each of us that he sent his only son, Jesus, to take our corruption and the punishment it deserved upon himself so that we would not have to suffer it. Jesus paid the terrible price of death and the abandonment of the Father for our sin and then rose to win eternal life for us. To give us this gift, he told his church to make disciples of all nations by baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything He had commanded.
Now we who are baptized have received Jesus’ gift of freedom from our old body of death, the old Adam. Luther’s Small Catechism tells us that Holy Baptism “indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” This simple summary applies to everyone – cradle roll to seniors – whose old sinful self was killed in baptism. For this reason Christian parents discipline even the youngest children, and elderly believers do not give up their personal struggle with the sins that plague them to the end. Gods concern is not whether we are old or young, but whether we are old or new. He does not measure us by age or experience as if these things might offer some justification for our performance. He asks if we have by daily contrition and repentance drowned our Old Adam and arisen as newly righteous and pure, just as the instant we came out of the waters of baptism.
But even this daily renewal is not our own work. When we confess our sins, we hear the voice of Jesus say, “I forgive you” through His Word or the pastors he has appointed to care for us. Then, young or old, we are new!