rebelling against low expectations

The City: A Sermon by Tim Keller


Several people had recommended this sermon to us, but we never got around to listening to it until it was assigned as part of Investigative Journalism class at Patrick Henry College.

We were discussing the role of Christian journalists, but the message is for all Christians — and seems especially relevant to rebelutionaries.

Pastor Tim Keller unpacks Jeremiah 29:4-7 to argue for a uniquely Christian approach to citizenship, one that avoids assimilation and tribalism in favor of selfless service.

Keller defines “assimilation” as using the city for your personal benefit and “tribalism” as using the city for the benefit of your group.

Both approaches fall short of God’s command in Jeremiah, where the Israelites are instructed to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”


Keller argues that Christians should be the very best citizens because we enter society with an intact identity in God.

We can approach the earthly city with hearts ready to serve because we already have a secure inheritance in the heavenly one. We need very little, but we have much to give. And God’s kingdom comes when believers demonstrate their love for God by the way they love other people.

If this is true, then many Christians (and rebelutionaries) are taking the wrong approach to leading the nation and shaping the culture.

The Church’s rise to prominence in the Roman Empire resulted not from the pursuit of power, but from an unexplainable, self-sacrificing love for others (listen to the sermon to hear this story).

Their influence arose from the quality and consistency of their service, not the extent of their ambition or the strength of their network.

Their influence arose from the quality and consistency of their service, not the extent of their ambition or the strength of their network

This concepts are vital for rebelutionaries because they touch at the heart of why we do hard things, why we rebel against low expectations, and why we pursue character, competence, and collaboration.

Is it for personal gain or glory? No.

Is it to ensure “our team” wins the culture war? No.

We do it so others might see our love and come to know the Source of that love. We do it so others might see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16)

That’s it for our thoughts. Listen to the message (it’s well-worth 40 minutes of your time). Then, join the conversation by answering the following questions:

  • What has most characterized your approach to “changing the world” — assimilation (serving yourself), tribalism (serving your group), or selfless love (serving the city)?
  • How do you think assimilation and tribalism influence the Church’s effectiveness? Have these approaches ever worked in the past?
  • How should a renewed emphasis on service change your tactics (or the tactics of Christianity as a whole)?
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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →