One of my favorite movies, which came out way before my time, is the film Easy Rider. I found something truthful about the way it looked at society and especially how it observed people's attitudes toward those who did not fit in. We see the two main rough-around-the-edges characters and given the way they live we can tell that they do not fit in. Of course, in the 1960s, to be a rebel was to ride a motorcycle—one of the best examples of bucking the typical 9 to 5 job and responsibilities of family life.
Now there will always be something strangely attractive about being young and rebellious. In fact, you may not realize it, but I think those of you who still attend your grandpa's church and Higher Things® conferences are a different kind of rebel. You, my friends, are the true rebels.
What does it mean to be a true rebel? Well, it starts with acknowledging that all of us are rebels and the only causes we ought to rebel against are the false notions about our society, about our Christ and what His mission is. Being a true rebel is to go against the norms of the day. So for young people that means still going to a church that has a liturgy that is not "relevant." It means still reading a Bible that claims authority and holds to absolute truths. It means not falling for the lie that media and fringe groups try to sell—the claim that God is not cool anymore. It means shaking our fists at the most ancient and revered tradition, that of self-reliance, especially when it comes to our salvation.
Society today would tell us that to be rebellious is a good thing, but only if that rebellion is aimed at holy institutions such as the church and the family. The movers and the shakers would say that being a rebel is admirable if you are being a rebel against the things that are seemingly old-fashioned, out of touch, and—worst of all—unfair. A true rebel knows that these opinions are based on people's own feelings and not on objective truth. A true rebel says there is only one God and that God is One who is always doing something counter culture. So what do we rebel against? Rebel against the old evangelicals who say that Jesus' true Body and Blood are merely symbolic. Rebel against the skeptic whose skewed biases blind him to the evidence. Rebel against the moralistic notions that being a Christian means being a good person.
Truth be told, we all have a little rebel in each of us called the Old Adam. The Old Adam helps to create confusion between the things that are truly good and the things that feel good. The Old Adam wants us to be a rebel as long as we rebel against God. This means bucking against the doctrinal realities that come from believing in the true God. Unfortunately, we will all have to contend with the Old Adam for a long time. He will be there when you graduate high school and college. He will be there when you get married and when you have your first child. He will be there your whole life. We can try to manage the Old Adam but I can tell you now that everyone of us fails and that is why we so desperately need to be at church, confessing our sins and receiving absolution and Christ's Body and Blood.
Having received the gift of forgiveness through water, Word and the Supper, let us be a different kind of rebel, a true rebel. To be a true rebel is to announce to the world that our baptism has made us children of God, in spite of what we do. Be a rebel against the rules that say "God only helps those who help themselves" and that "I am good person." A true rebel makes the radical statement that it is only by grace through faith that am I saved—both of which are gifts. Don't be surprised that if you declare these things people might distance themselves from you in the same way people did from the unconventional bikers in Easy Rider. But find your strength and rest in Christ, true rebel—knowing He has your back.
J.L. Moseman is a blogger and podcaster that lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. He attends Messiah Lutheran Church.
Created: May 24th, 2016