Do Not Conform to the World

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ʺTherefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.ʺ (Romans 12:1-2)

Christians have always struggled with the world, both internally and externally. Because Christians are in the world they have often been tempted to go along with the times, to bend their wills to the will of the current majority, in order to ʺfit in.ʺ The Church is in the world and at times those in charge of the Church have been tempted to bend to the ways of the world in order to be acceptable, or to be admired by the world. There are those who delude themselves saying that the Church has to be acceptable to the times in order to be able to bring people to it. The truth is that when either the individual Christian, or the Church goes along with the world, he or she, or it, stands in opposition to Christ. Though we and the Church are in the world we are not to be of it. We are to be like Christ alone.

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Within the Christian Church today there are those that take pride in being progressive and think that the best is yet to come in the Church, that the Church will finally let go of the past and be open to the will of the age. And they say that is what Christ would want. Then there are those who call themselves conservative, who feel that the golden age of the Church was sometime in the past (that specific time being dependent on who one talks to) and needs to be reawakened, and they claim that this is Christ’s view. Both of these views are really nothing more than human political and social ideologies, posing as Christ’s view. Christ transcends temporality. Christ is, was, and always will be the same. His Church is rooted in the eternal; it is not defined by temporality. It does not blow where the wind blows. It’s greatness is in Christ, not in the popularity of the crowd. It’s message is eternal and the same, it does not, indeed, cannot change, precisely because it is of Christ. It is ʺthe Body of Christʺ in the world. In other words the Church does not stand with the world and go along with the world (in either a progressive or a conservative sense), it stands above the world and calls the world to rise from the ashes of its fallen state.

ʺDo not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.ʺ This is easier said than done. We know this by experience. We know it takes tremendous courage to live the Christ life in the world. But we also know that, Emmanuel, God is with us. We know that where sin is increased, grace abounds all the more. (Romans 5:20) We are not alone. Yet, at the same time, we know that Jesus is saying to us every day, ʺWhoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.ʺ (Mark 8:34) So it is with the Church too. In the end, the reality of the Christian life and of the Christian Church is that it takes courage to LIVE the Christ life; not to preach it. The world is always demanding that we Christians, and the Church, conform to the current political and social ideologies of the times. This we, and the Church, can not do.

Culture of death ideas are always in the world; they just come in different iterations in each age, and they are always costumed in emotionally appealing ways. Christ’s message is one of life. Christ teaches us to obey God’s commandments, for it is in obeying the perfect law of God that we find real, meaningful life and are, paradoxically, liberated. This is something the world does not understand and often fights against. It always remains enslaved to the emotional whims of the age. Ultimately, Christ commands us to love one another as he loved us. The individual Christian, and the Christian Church, does this best by, yes, teaching God’s eternal, unchanging, moral law, but even more effectively so, by living that eternal, unchanging, moral law publicly and lovingly, ʺoffering their lives as a living sacrifice,ʺ in the face to the world’s rejection and hatred. Christ’s message is the same then, now, and forevermore. God’s ʺgood, pleasing and perfect willʺ does not change in order to fit in with the times. Neither should ours. As Paul writes in the passage above, we must always be ʺtransformed by the renewing of our mindsʺ in Christ, not by the mind of the world. Let us pray daily for the courage to LIVE Christ (not just preach him) in this world that is in such great need of his transforming love.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.