I’m from the generation of highschoolers that had some of the Christian “rebel stuff” come out. Take for example Lecrae’s song ‘fanatic’ or ‘rebel’ or ‘don’t waste your life’ were popular among many young people interested in faith. Christian rap has been famous for this. Although I never read it, Alex and Brett Harris put out a book called the ‘rebelution’. It seems that much of this literature finds some of its historical roots in the Jesus Freak movement of the 60s and 70s.
In highschool I tended to dismiss it all as silly reactionary stuff. Admittedly, it isn’t the height of literature. But now I realize a bit more that there was something to it.
There has always been a struggle between the way of Christ and the way of Satan since the beginning of the world. But North America was particularly shocked by the sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s. On the one hand, sexual mores and standards were chucked out the window, with a public carelessness that had not been heard of for a long time. On the other hand, the culture was only bringing a carelessness about God’s standards to the surface that had been brewing underneath the surface of morality and a veneer of public piousity.
This is a bit of an over-simplification, but our culture for the last 60 years has been a series of rebellions against the status quo. Obviously, for a rebellion to happen against the status quo, the status quo must exist. But every time a new status quo is established, a new rebellion must happen. It is the way of young people to desire something better, a better world, and then by the time they are 30, they start to become disillusioned and settle for a new status quo. That being said, often the desire for a better world, is undefined and wickedness becomes more prominent.
In our world, you see an eternal struggle between the young and the old. Of course, different personalities reveal this differently. Some love conflict and others love peace. One place you see this is at its height is between fathers & sons. Sons will shut down or fight back. Fathers will clamp down or give up. Often there is a whole spectrum in between. Fathers & sons are at the heart of the struggle between the old and the new, but it is not limited to this relationship.
Now, I find it striking that the Old Testament ends off with these words: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Ultimately, it recognizes a very real human struggle that lies at the heart of society. Titus 3:3 recognizes the problem on a more general level: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.“
Jesus seems to give contradictory words about what He came to do about the problem of in-fighting and rebellion. When Jesus departed, He said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) At another point, Matthew 10:34-39, He states:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
It strikes me that rebellion is a problem, because Jesus came to bring peace. But it also strikes me that Jesus encouraged rebellion. I find it striking that division in families is a problem, but that Jesus also came to bring division. It is also striking that the last command of the Old Testament is to bring families back together. It may be that a Biblically defined rebellion is on route to this peace.
The way I have solved the problem up until this point is to look at the composition of the word ‘peacemaker’. To be a peacemaker is to be actively ‘making’ peace. Jesus was not passive when He went to a cross, but He was waging war on the prince of this world. He was enacting violence on Satan, because there He crushed the head of Satan. Because we live in a broken world, the peaceful Christian will not get away from fighting, and the fighters will not get away from the call to make peace. The rebellious kid will be called away from his/her rebellion, but the good kid will be called to a rebellious attitude.
But the key to this is what is the underlying definition of this word rebellion. Rebellion must be defined by Scripture. Conflict and its resolution must be defined by the Word of God. So rebels can both be commended and rebuked, and nice guys can be both commended and rebuked. But it must be on the basis of the Word. The person they are called to look to is Jesus Christ.
So yes, it is important to be a rebel and it is important to be a nice guy, but the key is our rational, or the ‘why’ behind it. This is why the most productive debates happen when people press each other for reasons, and have a common authority. Answers often come after battles.
Lecrae concludes his song ‘fanatic’ with these words:
So we show them the love of Christ and live in the light
So they can glorify our God when they look at our life
And we win for sharing the truth and hearts get changed
We win if we’re rejected because of his name
We win if seeds get planted and watered and grow
But even if we lost, we still be Fanatical though
Or as Paul continues his song of praise for the greatness of God before the young pastor Titus:
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
When this happens, and only then, will the hearts of the sons be turned towards their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to their sons. Christ takes center stage. If He is not, the battle must continue.