Do Not Conform to This World
Do not conform to the patterns 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, his pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
To the thoughtful Christian, this suggestion makes sense. The Christian understands that the “patterns of this world” are shaped by the reality of Original Sin. The idea of not “conforming” to these patterns is logical to us. But there is a problem that we are also all too familiar with: we all too often fall short of our insights. It is one thing to know the truth of things, it is another to actually live in accord with those truths. Insight is an interior and private experience. But to live as Jesus lived is, by its very nature, a public action and, therefore, has consequences, and we are often moved by fear to avoid these consequences. An interior insight, as clear as it may be, is still private. But to give it efficacy, to give it life, we must act it out in some public way. When, in faith, we “renew our minds” in accord with the will of God, we are more able to see the will of God in all things. The will of God is perfect because it is perfectly good. To act in accord with the perfect will of God is to experience the interior gift of happiness, even in the midst of suffering. The insights of faith are a gift of grace. When we decide to live out of those insights publicly, in the world, we know that we will also be supported by grace, that we are not alone.
This is true for the individual, and it is true for the Church as well. It is with this in mind that G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We do not need a Church that moves with the world; we need a Church that will move the world.” The God-inspired insight of the Church is that conforming with the world is conforming with the patterns of The Fall, the patterns of competition, of pride, anger, jealousy, greed, gluttony, lust and sloth . The Christian Church was instituted by Jesus, not to conform with the ways of the world, but to tranform the ways of the world to those of God. This is the Church we need. This is the Church in which God is present. A “church” that conforms to the world is a church that has abandoned God in favor of men. Such a church is in service of the world, not of God.