Rebellion may seem like either an esoteric topic or childish. Few rebel against their government. So most of us only have inkling of what rebellion portends. As children, almost all of us rebelled against our parents, and almost all of us received punishment.
Still, there are times to rebel, when we must rebel. Then, depending upon our point-of-view, we may think of rebellion as a good or a bad thing.
Saul Who Became Paul
From God’s point-of-view, we are all in rebellion.
Genesis 3:22-24 New King James Version (NKJV)
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Our rebellion continues today. The Christian Church did not end it. In fact, the man most responsible for the spread of the church Jesus established was at first among its worst persecutors. Then his name was Saul. Saul abhorred what he perceived as the rebellion of the Christians. So it is that in the Bible we first hear of him with the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 7:57-60 New King James Version (NKJV)
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Time passed. Regret germinated in Saul’s heart. One day Saul saw the light (see Acts 9:1-19). What happened? Saul spoke with Jesus. How? Who among us knows, but in time Saul became Paul. In time Paul became perhaps the greatest of the apostles, at least as men judge such things. Still Paul remembered Saul.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 New King James Version (NKJV)
Glory to God for His Grace
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Paul was a brilliant man, a devoted Pharisee. Still, that did not prevent him from doing something horribly wrong.
Galatians 1:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Instead of keeping his focus on God, the man once known as Saul became exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers. We all do that to some extent, but our Lord corrects us. So it was with Saul.
Why Did Southerners Keep Slaves?
Why did polite, well-mannered Southern gentlemen keep slaves? They did so because they were exceedingly zealous for the traditions of their fathers. In this one thing, slavery, WE NOW AGREE those in the South erred just bit more than their brethren in the North. So there was war.
Matthew 10:34-39 New King James Version (NKJV)
Christ Brings Division
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Christians in the North looked to the Bible and condemned slavery. Christians in the South looked to the Bible and defended slavery. Which side twisted God’s Word? Christians on both sides argued vehemently. The dispute tore families apart. The South rebelled and tore the nation apart. Eventually, the Blue and Gray shed blood and thousands upon thousands died.
How did the war end? Following the example of Jesus, Stephen set the example for us. He forgave. In time, God helped his persecutors begin to understand their error. In time, God helped both the North and the South to understand racism is wrong.