It’s confusing to me that people often associate rebellion with the rejection of Christianity or Christian morality. Maybe within their family or small circle of friends it could seem to them like rebellion, but what most people proudly exclaim as being independent or free is actually conformity to the most animalistic of instincts that should be relegated to knuckle dragging Neanderthals.
What is generally claimed to be rebellion is really just selfishness. Choosing to live only for yourself is the result of either the ignorance of reality or a delusion of godhood. There is no reality in which a person exists as an individual with no impact, so a decision to live selfishly is a conscious effort to be destructive to everyone who is not one’s self. A person cannot claim to follow God then continue to live only for him/herself. It is simply irreconcilable. The ability to understand your smallness in relation to the world is the beginning of an intellectual journey that should cause the type of rebellion which results in selfLESSness. It should turn your focus toward something greater – that “something(s)” is other people and God.
It seems like I can’t write about how we approach any topic in society or our culture as Christians without it eventually leading to the two greatest commands about which Jesus spoke. They encompass every aspect of life, and this is what he meant when he said, “On these two commands depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:40) Those who were listening would have understood this statement to mean that these two commands, properly followed, encompass the entire meaning and purpose of their faith, culture, and heritage. So, it’s time to review Jesus’ statement of the two greatest commands and how it relates to the selfishness we call rebellion.
“You shall love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31)
In summary: Christians don’t get to be self-centered. We are to worship God as king and value others as much as we value ourselves.
The notion that we are not the focus of our own existence is a statement of rebellion against secular society that claims we should follow “our own truth” (a statement that makes absolutely no sense) and always live for immediate gratification, because “you only live once.” Anthems such as this attempt to appeal to our default/unevolved state of selfishness. Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we should rebel against the selfishness that is defined by conforming to the system of our society and even the entire world. We should live in a way that is sacrificial in order to please God. (Romans 12:1) Paul goes on to explain how this results in recognizing the value in others and holding them in esteem, even those we consider to be enemies. (Romans 12:3-21)
I’m not advocating for an ascetic lifestyle; we are meant to enjoy life and experience it to its fullest. However, we tend to be very poor at knowing how to live other than in a way that results in heartache and hopelessness in order to experience some kind of immediate gratification. Kacie (my wife) and I were discussing how people in sitcoms would make terrible people in real life. The characters we laugh at making the same mistakes relationally, professionally, and sexually over and over are people we wouldn’t really want to be around. Our society glorifies the ridiculousness of self-seeking characters, and presents them as successful, but their lives would be train wrecks in reality.
That kind of life does not create fulfillment. There is a framework for how to live a life that rebels against society and its hopeless standards – a life that is full of adventure and exciting pursuits, and it doesn’t require the emotional trauma of endless relational, financial, or sexual encounters that leave us scarred psychologically and emotionally. That rebellion is found in refusal to conform to the pattern of the world. It is found in being selfless toward others and living in the fullness of God. Rather than living in a selfish and unevolved state, as any senseless animal would, we can live in a way that is truly enlightened and open-minded to the things that most people choose to selfishly ignore. We can choose to break free from conformity and endless cycles of hopelessness. We can live in enlightened rebellion.