We have an independent streak in our society. Being original is considered a virtue to be pursued. The term rebel is often used in a praiseworthy way of such individuality. The problem is most rebels today are not that original at all. This is especially true when it comes to theology. A person may think he is being a brave and rebellious hero by adopting liberal theological views (i.e. accepting homosexuality, denying the truthfulness of the Bible, promoting a Marxist idea of justice, etc), but the reality is such a person is neither original, nor a hero. Such originality is really just doing and believing what the spirit of the age puts forward as true. This is not original, though it is rebellious against God and his word.
In his work, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer wrote the following concerning rebels in the 1960s:
They were rebels. They knew they were, for they wore the rebel’s mark—the worn-out blue jeans. But they did not seem to notice that the blue jeans had become the mark of accommodation—that indeed, everyone was in blue jeans…It is so easy to be radical in the wearing of blue jeans when it fits in with the general climate of wearing blue jeans.
In the sixties many thought they were rebelling or being original by wearing blue jeans but in reality they were all dressing the same. They thought they were being cutting-edge, but in reality the whole climate embraced the wearing of worn-out blue jeans. All they had done is accommodate the prevailing wind of the age which is really not very rebellious or original.
Schaeffer went to apply this to theological liberalism and its spread within the church. Those who want to be rebels often do so by wearing the blue jeans of accepting the morality of secularism, but they end up just looking like the culture of the day. It is easy to wear those blue jeans when the world wants you to and when it praises you for doing so. It is easy to wear blue jeans when it fits in with the general climate of wearing blue jeans.
To be a true rebel, a rebel with a cause, Christians are called to be against the spirit of whatever age they find themselves in. For example, today it takes no bravery whatsoever to wave a rainbow flag in public. To do so, especially in the name of Christianity, will earn you praise for it is exactly what the climate of our age is. There is no courage required for such an act today, rather it is cowardice and accommodation.
But to proclaim there is salvation in no one else besides Jesus Christ, and that to receive it you must repent of your sins (including homosexual behavior), that takes real bravery. Doing so will make you an actual rebel in our age. All it takes to rebel against the prevailing wind of the current sexual revolution is to be faithful to scripture.
I was faced with this dilemma recently when I was invited to preach at a chapel that our church regularly staffs. This chapel had a new chaplain, and when I met him it was clear he and I were not on the same page. He proudly wore rainbow earrings and talked about how different perspectives and traditions are all just the same. When I arrived I had in my hand a prepared message that did not address the obvious problems with this man’s views. What should I do?
I was faced with a choice. Accommodate the new chaplain’s blue jean mentality, or adjust my message on the fly to confront these lies. This was not an easy decision. No one wants to be that guy, not even me. The pressure to pretend we were on the same page was immense.
So what did I do? I came to the conclusion I may be the only person who comes into this chapel and actually preaches the gospel to these people. So I adjusted my message on the fly to cover topics like sin, repentance, and how faith in Jesus is the only way to God, and the surety of God’s judgment for sin. I told the chaplain the Baptist perspective (which he had said was in essence the same as all the others) is that God’s Word is central, so I preached his word faithfully.
It was obvious the chaplain did not care for my message. After the service we awkwardly parted ways. In that moment it was clear, one of us thought he was rebel, but only one of us was not accommodating the spirit of the age. I do not tell this story to paint myself as a hero, for I am not. I am more than likely a fool who could have done his job much better. This story though illustrates an important point. We can either seek to rebel against God through accommodating the spirit of the age or we can rebel against the spirit of the age. If we rebel against God, the world will praise us and God will judge us. If we rebel against the spirit of the age God will bless us and the world will hate us. The choice should be easy, but often it isn’t.
This is a choice many of us will face in coming years. We can either put on the blue jeans of our age to fit in, or we can be faithful to the God of the Universe and in the process become rebels to our society. To choose cultural accommodation would be cowardice and faithlessness. To choose obedience to God will require bravery, grace, and faith. Like the faithful who have come before us, if we choose to fear God instead of man, we will not fit in, but we will be blessed by God for our obedience. But if we choose to put on the blue jeans of the day, we will find ourselves in a crowd, who all look eerily similar, shaking our collective fists at God.