Christians today of necessity must be rebels:
Normally when a Christian discusses things like rebellion, it is done so in a negative light. That is, we should not rebel – certainly against God, nor for the most part should we rebel against the authority structures God has put in place: civil government, parents, and so on.
But here I want to speak to a good sort of rebellion. The truth is, in a world that hates God and his truth, those who do love God and his truth have no other option than to be rebels. They must rebel against an ungodly system that seeks to dethrone God and his Word.
To simply go along with the evil world system, seek not to rock the boat, and just try to get along really does not cut it. In a world overrun by horrific evil the Christian must rebel – the Christian must be part of the resistance. And the Christian must be known to be a resister.
That has always been true for real deal believers. In both Scripture and church history we find this to be the case. Consider what I just recently read again in the Old Testament. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah speak about the exiles returning to Israel and their attempts to rebuild the temple. They face plenty of opposition as a result. Ezra 4 begins this way:
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
In verses 7-16 we find the letter they wrote to king Artaxerxes. Part of their accusations are laid out in verses 12-15:
Be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste.
‘These people are rebels! They do not fit in with the system. They are troublemakers. They refuse to get with the program. They must be opposed!’ That is the line of attack the opponents took: they saw the Jews as rebels who had to be stopped from their rebellious activities.
That in effect is what all true people of God are labelled with: ‘They don’t fit in and are just hot heads. They are preventing us from all getting along. If it weren’t for these pesky believers we would have a terrific and peaceful world to live in. Away with these troublemakers!’
Other examples come to mind. Consider the words of the wicked king Ahab when the prophet Elijah came along. As we read in 1 Kings 18:17-18: “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’ And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals’.”
Things are no different in the New Testament. Jesus was seen as a threat to the system, as a troublemaker, from the get go. While the Jewish leaders saw him as a blasphemer, when they made accusations against him to the Roman rulers, they used charges of Jesus being an insurrectionist and a rebel.
They sought to present Jesus as being treasonous for claiming to be king of the Jews. As we find in John 19:12: “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar’.”
The early disciples were also perceived in the same way. In Acts 17:1-9 we read of another clear example of this:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
And we could spend a lot of time providing examples of this from church history as well. Whether it was a Hus or a Luther or a Wilberforce or a Bonhoeffer, these believers were regarded as rebels, as troublemakers, and as those who had to be silenced.
Things are even worse today in many respects. Long gone are the days when we could just go with the flow, blend in with the crowd, and pretend everything is sweetness and light. Now our calling is to be real counter-culturalists. Our mandate is to stand out and be seen to be different. Our mission is to resist the current system and be rebels for Christ.
How not to be a rebel
That so many believers today are NOT rebels but are happily going along with all the world’s values and principles is sadly all too obvious. One news item today caught my eye about this very matter. A pair of presenters at a Christian radio station were said to be shacking up, at least according to one version of the story.
All up, it is hard to know for sure what is happening. But I would have thought that if this pair was at all concerned about their Christian reputation, they would have contacted that media outlet by now and made a stink about those insinuations if they are in fact unfounded.
But if this accusation is true, it shows once again that the world’s values are trouncing those of so many believers. As such, there is nothing brave or praiseworthy about it. What IS brave and what does take real courage today is to be a Christian rebel. And that would mean being abstinent before marriage, and faithful in marriage. That is what a real rebel looks like today.
So what about you? Are you a rebel for Christ? We sure need them now.