The Right Rebellion

Recently, I noticed my socks have instructions printed on them. I expected to see the brand logo and designs, but then I realized there was a tiny R on one sock and an L on the other. Unfortunately, when my eyes focused on these letters, I had them already on and reversed. What to do? I am “generally” a rule follower, so I had an immediate urge to switch them. Since I was running late (no big surprise there) and no one but me would know, I left them uncorrected.

Other than the helpful letters, the socks were identical and fit equally well on either foot, leading me to assume their addition was more decorative than practical [unless you are learning to differentiate your right from left]. However, this humorous event got me thinking about other small “rebellions” we think are OK because no one else would know, such as labels like “dry clean only.” Have you missed it and run the item through the wash? I have, and sometimes it works out.

Socks and clothes aside, how do you deal with things that affect others equally. For example, do you return your cart to the stalls after taking your items to the car, or do you leave it in the closest available space? I’ve heard some defend their decision to abandon carts as “job security” for employees. I can only assume a wayward cart has not dinged their car, or they would see more value in returning carts.

Switching socks only affected me. Failing to return carts to the corral causes the workers gathering the carts to work harder and could damage someone’s car or roll into traffic, possibly causing an accident. Who abandoned the wayward cart is nearly impossible to determine as numerous carts reside outside the provided corrals – often within a very short distance of the strays. It has more to do with common courtesy and personal responsibility.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

John Wooden

My internet search attributed the above quote to John Wooden (as listed) – AND H. Jackson Brown Jr., Allan Williams, Jason Mraz….and possibly others (had I continued looking). I’m not sure who originated this, but obviously, many have seen fit to share the wisdom of this sentiment. There is another quote consistently contributed to Martin Luther King Jr.

“the time is always right to do the right thing.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Christians are called to live authentic lives of integrity, doing the right thing, even if, and especially when, no one is watching. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this, as did Peter in writing to early Christians living in a hostile pagan culture. 1 Peter 3:8b-16 (NLT) contains the following advice [emphasis mine]:

…Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say, If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and DO GOOD. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the LORD watch over those who DO RIGHT, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the LORD turns his face against those who do evil. Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”

In quoting Ps. 34:14, Peter focused on aspects of “doing the right thing” as Christ-followers. Verse 9 admonished them to avoid speaking evil, repaying evil, or planning retaliation for ill-treatment. Both verses 11 and 16 reference doing good and living a good life. The passage’s context directs Christians to bless others – including those who mistreat them. Do the right thing….even if no one but God knows.

Following Peter’s admonitions, especially when it differs so much from societal norms, describes someone who isn’t afraid to be counter-cultural. Wearing socks on the wrong feet is a rebellion not affecting anyone – even the person doing so. But, the “rebellion” we are to espouse involves a kindness that puts others’ needs ahead of our own. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Phil. 2:3-4 NLT).

Now that is a rebellion worth celebrating.

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