Rebels have come in many colors throughout the centuries. They’ve come in the red of blood-soaked rags wrapped around bootless feet, unprotected through the winter, waiting to march once again for freedom. They’ve come in the gray of threadbare uniforms over bony frames, charging across wide fields toward their own countrymen. They’ve come in the black of automatic weapons, peaking out from the back of a truck or the roof of a house, the hands on them steady as they pull the trigger that will end a life.
All rebels are fighters. While what they’re fighting for could be good or bad or gray, they’re always fighting someone– if not with weapons, with words or signs or culture. And in most cases, who they’re fighting against is someone with some kind of authority over them. That’s what makes them rebels.
That’s what makes us rebels.
We are all rebels when it comes to God. We have all chosen to usurp his rule over our lives, to go our way instead of his, to fight his will at every turn. Thankfully, God doesn’t end rebels on sight. He gives us second chances:
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.”– Romans 5:8-11, HCSB
He not only sacrificed his son for us, his enemies, but that sacrifice reconciles us to him. When we accept his pardon (made possible through Christ), he welcomes us back with open arms. We are prodigal children who have turned our backs on him– and yet he runs to meet us.
We are all rebels, but only if we choose to be. Rebellion isn’t glamorous, glorious, or radical– it’s common. On the other hand, submitting to God (and the authorities he’s placed in our lives) is radical and uncommon. It changes everything. It makes us different– not because of what we stand against, but because of who we stand for.
Being redeemed from our rebellion not only changes our stance before God; it changes our actions toward everyone.
The Bible calls us ex-rebels to be different– from the world and from the way we used to be. Most people think you must rebel against something to be radical, to stand out. But Jesus was the most radical person to ever live and he didn’t rebel; he lived in love and submission. Yes, he rebelled against the status quo and man-made traditions, but if you think about it, those things never had control over him to begin with. They were never his authority– that was an occupied position.
Jesus was the only human in history to look out over the glory and power and control that could have been his if he rebelled and say, “No.” He’s the only one of us who never betrayed his Master. He alone is loyal in a world teaming with rebels. And now he calls his followers to be like him.
Sometimes it’s good for us to rebel against earthly authorities. But it doesn’t usually look like what we think it should. Our instincts drive us to fight any injustice against ourselves and to stay out of the way when we see injustice happening to others. But Scripture calls for us to withstand injustice against ourselves with submission and tolerance, but to fight injustice against others. This is the backwards rebellion Jesus calls for– if you can even call it rebellion at all. Because in living this way, we are still in obedience to our one true authority, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.
When I first began writing this post, I had no idea it would turn into an unpacking of the gospel. Funny how God works like that. Anyway, if you have any questions about God, our rebellion, redemption, Christ’s sacrifice, or all of these amazing truths, please comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com. I would love to talk to you about it.
COMMENT: What does thinking of the gospel in terms of rebellion and pardon remind you about who God is? How have you seen someone live out the concept of “backwards rebellion”?