The Christian Church has become complacent. It has embraced the shallow, ritualistic lifestyle that is the embodiment of true religion. We, as time continues to pass, focus more on our religious rituals than our relationship with Christ. We fail to realize that contentment and complacency are two very different ideas. In our eyes, society has become like the decrepit dog that no one wants to take home. In the eyes of Christ, the same type of society was like a sheep without a shepherd. Somehow, I doubt that this Jesus would even be allowed to enter most of our church buildings today. We continue to judge those who belong to the world by Christian standards. We fail, on average, to show the love that Christ would have us show.
Is it any surprise to us that the population of the Church, here on Earth, grows smaller? It has become just another religion. This is the very reason Zephaniah Isaac Payton left the youth group at his home church when he passed the test to receive his driver’s license.
He saw the hypocrisy, the lies, the overemphasis on rituals, and the lack of true love. All he wanted was something real. He did not find that among God’s people.
“Zeph! Wake up! We are going to be late!”
Zephaniah Isaac Payton strained to open his eyes and looked toward his half-open bedroom door just in time to see his mother, Kassy Payton, turn and walk away.
He had not been to church with his parents since the summer of 2010. In fact, he had not been to church at all since then. That was the time when he finally passed his driver’s test. Once he gained the freedom that came along with his newfound ability to drive legally, he stayed as far away from the church as he possibly could. The people there seemed fake. They claimed to follow some sort of all-powerful God, but Zeph noticed that they only followed that God on Sundays and on Wednesdays. He did not want to be a part of that standardized hypocrisy. He did not understand how people could live two lives, and he refused to conform to the ensuing trend. He also refused to listen to anyone living that type of double-life because their actions proved that they did not truly care much about anyone other than themselves. He had already seen the insincerity of their faith. After all, how was it possible for someone to trust someone else if he or she chose to live in such a way that denied the other’s existance? These people claimed to follow God. Is this how that God commanded them to live? If so, Zeph not only wanted to stay away from the church, he wanted to stay away from the people associated with that church and with a God whose existence was questionable.
Zeph buried his face in his pillow, trying to get back to sleep. He found it very difficult as he thought about the relationship his family had with the church. His parents were the worst hypocrites of them all. His father, Curt Payton, was a drunk who would often abuse Zeph’s mother. Why were they still together? His parents spent most of their time chasing dollar bills. Zeph did not understand why because they already had more than enough to last several lifetimes. No matter how hard they tried or how much they had, Zeph’s family could not achieve the happiness that they longed for. Still, they went to church and acted like everything was fine. Zeph often wondered if everyone within the church acted the same way, putting on a mask in front of Jesus while claiming that He was the only one who could set them free.
Zeph pushed the overwhelming thoughts out of his head. He could not wait for summer to come to an end. He needed to get out of his house more often than he had been able to, and this was the first weekend all summer that he did not have plans. He picked up his phone, unlocked it to check the time, saw that it was only 9:01, and fell back to sleep.
Zeph awoke to the screaming voices of his parents as they returned from church. This was the first time that he had to endure the torment since summer started. They probably did not even realize he was still in the house. Zeph did not know what they were fighting about, but every other word came out as a curse. Zeph was tired of his parents slandering one another. He rolled out of bed, put on a pair of athletic shorts, reached for his wallet and his keys, and started toward the living room.
His parents stopped as they saw him approach the door that led out of the house. Zeph did not know why they tried to hide it. Their hatred toward one another was more than obvious to him. He looked them in the eye, and shook his head before walking out of the house and forcing the door to close behind him.
As Zeph walked beside the street in his neighborhood, he kept his head down. He was deep in thought. He had everything that everyone dreamed of having, but he felt as though life was nothing but an utter mess. If this life did come by pure chance, what was the point of enduring the hardships that it brought?
Zeph heard the horn of a mid-sized pickup truck behind him. He turned to realize that it was one of the people in the youth group at church. His name was Paul Andrews. Zeph ignored his effort and turned back to continue walking. One of the last things he wanted to do was talk to someone that claimed to know God. The horn continued to sound as Paul pulled up next to Zeph and talked to him as he was walking, “Hey man! Where you headed?”
Zeph looked at him as if to say, “Please do not bother me,” and continued to walk.
“I would be happy to give you a lift,” Paul said bringing his head out of the window.
Zeph stopped and said, “No thank you.”
Paul, shrugging his shoulders, replied, “Alright then, missed you in church this morning.”
Paul drove off and all Zeph could think about, once again, was the hypocrisy within the church. That was, however, the first time he had ever had anyone show him even the slightest version of true kindness. Could it have been real? As far as Zeph was concerned, God was a product of human imagination because humanity needed a crutch: something to believe in. He had seen no real evidence. He had seen no genuine faith.
Zeph walked two miles to another friend’s, house. He knocked on the front door hoping someone was home. Sure enough, Zac answered the door with a twelve ounce in his left hand. Immediately he looked at Zeph, held up the bottle in his right hand, and asked, “Beer?” Zeph smiled, took the beer, and walked into the house.
Zac’s parents were never home, so they did not have to worry about being caught with alcohol. Zac was even convinced that his parents would not care if they had caught him. They sat on the couch in the living room and flipped on the television.
Zeph needed to vent. He wanted to talk to someone about the issues he had with his parents, but Zac would only say, “Dude, that’s life.” So, Zeph settled with just trying his best to forget about them in general. He wanted to live, but he refused to live the fake, religious life that Christians did. At least his friends were honest about who they were.
Zac looked over at Zeph with an idea in his mind. Zeph looked back and asked what he was thinking. “Why isn’t there a party this week?” Zac asked. Zeph chuckled, cussed, and said, “Heck if I know.”
“My parents just called me. They said they wouldn’t be home until Tuesday,” Zac said while he nudged Zeph with his elbow.
“I will make some calls,” Zeph agreed.
When Zeph said this, he meant that he would make one phone call, and that was to the young man who had all of the connections. He often hung around Joshua Fehring, who just happened to be the most popular guy in school.
Zeph pulled his phone out of his pocket, unlocked it, and shuffled through his contacts to find Josh’s number. Once he found it, he simply pushed the call button.
“Yo,” Josh’s voice came across the line.
“Hey bro! What you up to?” Zeph asked.
“I am sittin at home bored, there’s need for a party.”
“I think you are right! Zac’s parents are gone. You wanna spread the word?”
Josh cussed profoundly, said, “Yeah!” Then, called Zeph a four-letter s-word. Zeph ended the call, looked at Zac, grinned, and heard his phone beep.
Facespace was the most prominent social networking site on the World Wide Web and it was rumored to be greater than the rest of the WWW combined.
When Zeph looked at his phone, he saw a message from facespace telling him that Josh had just updated his status. It read, “I am so bored,” followed by a string of profane words, “Party at Zac’s house tonight!!!” People would surely be there! Zeph figured that, since there were no other parties, most of the usual attendees would show.
Seven o’clock came rolling around, and Zeph heard a knock on the front door, “Heck yes!” Zac jumped over the back of the couch and rushed to the door, opened it, and saw Josh standing there with two six-packs in his hands and a smile on his face. He walked in, and went directly to the kitchen where he set the beer down on the island that separated the kitchen from the living room. People continued to arrive while the party thrived.
When it ended, around one in the morning, Zeph could not remember most of what happened. He was relieved, however, to have gotten a break from his crazy life, even if that break did not seem like it lasted long enough. He crashed in the guest room after everyone had left, and did not wake up until about two o’clock on Monday afternoon.
Zeph struggled to lift himself off of the mattress that had been laid on the floor for him beside Zac’s bed. He looked around only to see that his friend was still sleeping off the night before. He reached out his hand to nudge Zac, but he was as still as a mannequin. Zeph turned around and stumbled tiredly out of the bedroom door, through the hallway, and into the restroom to check his hair before he left.
He spent only a few seconds playing with his hair and splashing water in his face before leaving.
Zeph made it halfway to his parents’ house when he noticed Paul Andrews playing football with one of his younger brothers. He also noticed that Paul had noticed him. Paul shouted across the yard, “Hey! Zeph! Heads up!”
Rebellion the Book will be released on September 17, 2011