How to raise a rebel

Last Updated on February 23, 2024

“Mom, why does that house have a rainbow flag? Can we get one?”

The question came from the backseat during a morning drive to school. It was a question I knew would come eventually.

After all, rainbows are pretty, the colors are bright. And when teaching our kids the story of Noah, they learn that rainbows remind us of God’s promise to show extravagant mercy in the face of human pride and rebellion.

But now, rainbows in mainstream culture represent just one of the many minefields we encounter as Christian parents.

In this upside-down world, how are we as parents to raise up our children to be Biblically consistent and culturally relevant?

We have three options in our response: Conform, retreat, or raise rebels.

The easiest response is also the most costly: raise the flag of surrender on Biblical truth whenever the world around us conflicts with Scripture.

You’ll be in the popular crowd, on the side of major institutions and many of your neighbors. You won’t have to wrestle with how to love people while still disagreeing with their lifestyle choices.

At best, it will produce an anemic faith for you and your children, at worst, cost your child’s whole soul. I know, that is an incredibly blunt statement but to say otherwise is to obscure the truth.

Scripture calls each of us to make Jesus our first love — not the approval of the crowd, not the affections of another person, not financial, or social stability.

Conforming to avoid tension and persecution is to abandon that call. If they hated Him, He reminds us we should expect no less for claiming to be His own.

The middle response is to hold to the truth of Scripture but completely shield our children from the world around us, for as long as possible. As a mom of five, it’s a response that tempts me weekly. How much easier to withdraw to some remote area until the world either fixes itself or collapses and we rebuild!

But that response is rooted in fear and a lack of faith.  God intentionally placed these babies of ours in this time, with us as their parents.

When Jesus says to be in the world but not of it, He’s inviting us to labor alongside him in redeeming this busted up world; to walk daily in the tension of living in a sin-infected world without letting it consume us.

Healthy ways to raise a rebel

He purposefully chose our children for these particular days of tension, oppression, and conflict. To retreat would be to miss the point of being salt in this world.

Which leaves us with the last, and to me, most exciting response: raising rebels.

The early Church toppled the greatest Empire in the world through rebelliously refusing to go along with the corruption of the day, choosing instead to show brave and sacrificial love rooted in the Truth. It cost many of them their very lives and yet it sparked a revolution that forever changed the course of history, and as a result, yours and my lives. 

Here are three ways we can raise our kids to be rebels for the same cause.

How to Raise a Rebel

Teach the Truth

Throughout the day, my husband and I try to point to Scripture and God’s intended purpose in any situation—creation, marriage, friendships, finances, pregnancy, gender differences, etc. It’s not heavy-handed—usually just a casual reference to a story we’ve read in the Bible or an observation that adds more to their understanding of what is true, good, or beautiful. When the day comes to tackle a cultural issue like the rainbow flag, we have a foundation of truth upon which to root that conversation.

Layer the conversations

That question in the car that day wasn’t the first conversation about sexuality or gender. It was just another aspect of the layers we had been building up to that point. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve added more nuance to both explaining those issues (and many others!) as well as unpacking God’s intended design and purpose in those areas. Every time, we end the conversation by affirming to our kids that these questions and conversations are welcome and important. We want them to keep coming back to us, rather than their friends!

Define the Enemy

Raising rebels means raising men and women who understand that their fight is not against people but against spiritual powers.

God loves the person or people groups on the “other” side, as much as He loves us. When we’re tempted to get angry and hard, instead invite your children to pray for those who today oppose God’s truth.

As we raise our kids to rebel against the evil in this world, we also need to teach them to rebel against reacting out of anger and fear, choosing instead to hold out a tenderness and love towards those walking in darkness.

What are some parenting tips that you’ve learned for raising kids who look like Jesus?