Sunday, March 30, 2008
Some people have complained about the term the "rebel God" saying that it plays into the pop cultural cliches. I can understand this critique since being a rebel has often been appropriated by the corporate propaganda machine to sell conformity - everyone being "original" in the exact same way, "alternative" being the new hip way to say "popular". But I still want to hold onto the idea of the rebel God because I think it tells is something profound about what it means to understand Jesus as Lord, God, and Savior. Jesus was condemned as a blasphemer and crucified as an outlaw. He was a threat to the government and subversive to religious authority. He was nothing else if not a rebel, and following him meant rebelling against the "world" system. Why else do you think the early Christians were killed? Faithfulness to Christ meant subversion of Caesar. Sadly, for so many people today God is associated ith that same authoritative system. Throughout history the church has tragically allied itself with a Constantinian understanding of authority and power. But if Jesus is God then God is the rebel, God is the outlaw, God is the one who is planning to subvert the way of this world with his revolutionary kingdom by starting that revolution in our hearts with the new birth.
I was always taught that rebellion was at the root of sin. But the more I have followed Jesus the more I have found rebellion to be a character trait. It is rebellion that taught me to question not only the assumptions of my culture and its screwed up values, but also to question myself and to never assume that I had a hold on truth, but to instead have a life of seeking. Rebellion has protected me from swallowing the toxic faith that has hurt so many people I know. It is a rebellion against authority that is rooted in the New Testaments witness that authority can be just as fallen as we can be. The "God of this world" is not the one we should follow unquestioningly, but the one we are to oppose in Jesus name. That has meant practically needing to stand up to my pastors when they were wrong and abusing their authority (which has meant taking my lumps at times), but the only regrets I have here are when I did not trust in my conscience and did not stand up. I hope that people I lead would do the same with me.
There needs to be a way for us Christians to embrace absolute truth without being seduced into thinking we have a corner on truth, thinking we can systematize and franchise truth authoritatively. Instead we need to understand that truth is a person who we always need to a to cling to in humility with an open and seeking heart. If Jesus is God then that means the ultimate authority is the one who was an outlaw, the one who identified with the sinner and the least. If Jesus is God then that means the picture of morality and holiness is seen in the one who was accused of being a lawbreaker in the very act of loving and caring for those in need, and who went right ahead and did it anyway despite the reputation it gave him. If Jesus is God then that means that God is the rebel God, it means God is a punk.