What comes to mind when you think of a rebel? Maybe it’s a tattooed cigarette-smoking motorcyclist, or a Che Guevara-style revolutionary, or (for you Star Wars fans) maybe it’s Luke Skywalker. There are all kinds of rebels.
Are you a rebel?
The truth is, everyone is a rebel in some way. The important question is, what kind of rebel are you, and what kind of rebel should you be? You need to be sure of your answer, because it’s one that will decide where you spend eternity, as well as how you live your life today.
Last Tuesday at the Porch, we talked about three rebels named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They went against what everyone else was doing, even though it meant near-certain death to defy the King Nebuchadnezzar’s orders. God saved them from getting roasted in a furnace, showing that they were the right kind of rebels.
Let’s see what the Bible says about three kinds of rebels.
Either you used to be a rebel against God, or you still are. There are no exceptions. If you haven’t trusted Christ, this is you, no matter if you’re a thug or a “good person.” Everyone starts off in this category, and trusting Christ through the message of the gospel is the only thing that gets you out of it. Romans 3:23 says that everyone has sinned and falls short of God’s glory. Ephesians 2:3 says that by our very nature, we deserve God’s wrath.
Amazingly, God is in the business of turning rebels into the reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 puts it this way: “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Would you rather be a rebel against God or an ambassador for Him? You’re either one or the other, and the Bible is clear that this is the kind of rebel that you don’t want to be.
Should you be a rebel against earthly authorities? The answer to this question can be a little tricky, since I might say “sometimes” or “it depends.” Clearly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, so was that a bad thing? We can see from Scripture that it was actually a good thing for them to disobey the king’s evil command, since God saved them and proved their decision to be the right one.
So how should that impact how you respond to authorities in your life? In general, obeying authority seems to be the right thing to do, but even in this you must be discerning. This is a question with real-world implications, since most if not all of us are under some kind of authority, whether it’s a boss, principal, parent, president, pastor, or the police. There are two extremes to avoid here. Some of you are probably super independent and chafe at the idea of other people telling you what to do, and you are more likely to rebel than to obey. “What speed limit? Those are for losers!” For others of you, you may be more likely to do whatever an authority figure tells you to do, even it’s something wrong or potentially compromising to your witness. “Lie to this client to get the sale? OK boss, if you say so.” Both of those are wrong.
I think a solid two-part principle is this: a) you should respect and obey all legitimate earthly authorities (Romans 13:1-2), except for b) when doing so would make you disobey God, who is the highest authority (Acts 5:29).
This one is clear if you’re a Christian: you should be a rebel against the world. Many times when the Bible says “world” it’s not talking about legitimate earthly authorities like in the point above, or the created earth, but rather everything in the world that is hostile, rebellious, and opposed to God. That’s what I’m talking about here.
If you’re a Christian, Jesus said that you are not of this world (John 17:16). This means that this world is not your ultimate authority or home. Instead, the world should be a place where you are living as God’s ambassadors in a way that loves Him and loves others, and telling as many people as you can about the good news of the gospel. That’s what Christian rebellion should look like! Every time you make a decision to honor God in your job, relationship, money management, words, purity, or any other area of life, you are being a righteous rebel.
Being a rebel against the world doesn’t mean that you have to turn into some sort of monk or nun and never associate with sinners (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Instead it means that you should stand out from the sinful patterns of the world by showing it how God has changed you (Romans 12:2).
What are some areas where you you need to be less rebellious? And where do you need to be more rebellious?