Just about a month ago, a riot convulsed the streets of downtown Vancouver. For some hours, the normally peaceful and safe streets were filled with dangerous chaos. The damage to public and private property, to individuals, and to reputations was immense. In the aftermath of the riot, one particular question puzzled observers: why did the Stanley Cup celebrations go so wrong, when, only a year before, the much larger crowds gathered for the Olympics were so well behaved?
Amid the many discussions around this question, one answer seems to be consistently offered and accepted: there was a greater proportion of young men in Vancouver on the night of the riot than there had been a year earlier.
What does this tell us about young men? And how are we to understand this Biblically? For starters, it does not prove that young men are somehow more sinful than everybody else. The curse of sin affects young and old, male and female alike. Moreover, it does not excuse young men from responsibility for their actions. Just because we are “young and wild” does not mean we can explain away our actions as if we were just acting out some insanity or disability.
It does mean, though, that young men are particularly prone to those forms of sin that include violence, disorder, displays of strength and bravado, and disrespect for authority. The reasons for this particular weakness are obvious. Young girls rarely need to restrain themselves from fighting adult policemen. Elderly men rarely need to fight the temptation to topple cars and smash windows in the late evening. Neither young girls or elderly men have the strength, energy, inclination, or opportunity to commit these sins. They must battle other temptations, but only rarely the temptation to start or join a riot.
So what advice does the Bible have for young men, who are particularly prone to the sins displayed in the Vancouver riot a month ago? Here is the Apostle Paul’s instruction to Titus, a pastor in Crete, on how to advise young men: exhort them to “be sober minded” (Titus 2:6). There’s a simple piece of advice! Be sober-minded: serious, restrained, thoughtful, cautious, grave, reflective, quiet, peaceful. In short, Titus is to exhort the young men in his church to be the opposite of a rioter.
And for those young men who not only need advice on how to live for the future, but also on how to deal with past sins (that’s all of us, by the way), here is the prayer of another young man who struggled with the same sins in his own youth: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Psalm 25:7).