Peter 2:12-14 (NIV): “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to those who do wrong and commend those who do right.”
We’ve all heard the proclamation, “I’m a rebel.” It is a spoken battle cry in fiction movies, documentaries, and in a high school hallway near you. Exactly what the term “rebel” means is not easily pinned down. See, if I live in a neighborhood where everyone uses and deals drugs, and I decide to breakaway from such behavior, then labeling myself a rebel carries good connotations. If I live in a neighborhood where everyone keeps their lawn well manicured, and mine looks like a wild prairie, well then bragging about my rebel status is not such a positive declaration. Nevertheless, a lot of today’s teens seem to support the belief that rebellion is a positive asset.
The act of rebellion does not mean a person is heroic or correctly supporting a positive change in society. For instance, when high school students believe a certain school rule is unfair, a planned walkout is not necessarily the best approach to deal with the dispute. Yet that is what usually receives the most publicity. A sad fact when one examines that a more successful – but, of course, less attention drawing – approach to tackling this issue may be to directly write to the school board.
The world tells us to seek attention and fame. But sometimes the best way to create change in a society is to work inside the system to seek justice and equality. For example, I hear so many teens complain about how it is unfair for one school sport to receive more funds than another school sport, yet only a handful of students take the time to write school administrators and inform them of their grievances.
Seeking justice, obtaining equality, or trying to be different does not mean one must openly rebel against parents and authority figures. Rebellion in and of itself is not an act worthy of respect, and teenage rebellion can sometimes lead to destructive consequences for more than just the rebel. The teen who decides to rebel against a designated curfew may find himself in trouble with both his parents and the law. A teen who decides she has every right to try smoking could end up accidentally starting a fire when she tosses a lit cigarette under the wooden patio when her parents arrive home an hour early.
Society has definitely created a mysterious myth about the awesome power somehow connected to the word “rebel”. There is no magic wand to wave and take back the corrupted aura that surrounds the word, but if more teens are challenged by peers and parents about why they feel the need to label themselves a rebel when most of the order in the world comes from conformity: driving on the correct side of the road; waiting in line; paying taxes; tossing garbage in garbage cans; and respecting other people’s property.
Chaos and disorder should not be the result of pursuing change and justice. If you must be a rebel, be one who works with order and dignity at his side. I’m sure respect, a listening ear, and a greater possibility for change will be the result of such efforts.
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