There has been a lot of politically charged talk this week about some humanitarian issues occurring on our nation’s border. I do not intend to delve into politics on the matter because I do not have the solution; however, I believe that something must be done in both our national security and our treatment of immigrants. In reflecting on this topic, my heart is drawn to Romans 12. Paul urges us to present ourselves as “living sacrifices” and then continues with the advice that I find timely to this situation: “
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
What does this passage have to do with the current national dialogue? We’ll return to that in a moment. First, let’s examine Paul’s instruction.
The commitment to offer your life to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving is intended to result in a process of change—transformation. When the gospel is proclaimed, repentance is required. Repentance is a turning around, a change in thinking and behaving. As Paul says, this change involves the mind and those things that shape your thinking. The life of worship hinges on transformation through the incarnation of Christ, not conforming to the world by means of imitation.
Paul uses two words here: “Conform” and “Transform.” Too often Christ-likeness is seen as a conforming identity. It brings to mind for many the picture of an Orwellian picture of lifeless conformity as though Christians were mindless peons lined up in submission to some draconian ruler. Christ is not interested in conforming – that it is not in line with the very freedom that you are promised as His child. Conforming is a forced outside-to-inside change that rarely sticks. It is the tool of cult leaders, fascist political systems, and manipulative authoritarians. Paul writes of a circumcision of the heart. His is a reference to a transformation that begins from the inside-out. It is the confession of all who proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior that he dwells in their inner-most being – the heart. Transformation indicates that fundamental attitudes must be changed and new perspectives attained.
Returning to the issue at hand, our initial reaction in our polarized culture is to quickly side with one tribe or another and then engage in an all-out verbal assault on those who think different than us. This is exactly what Paul is warning against. We cannot conform our ideas to the masses. We are set apart and different! Thus, our perspectives on all matters, political, social, psychological, and spiritual must be approached not from some line of political banter but from a viewpoint of the gospel that has transformed our minds.
All of this eventually leads into the 13
Chapter where Paul calls for reverence of the law of the land as well as a respect for ALL people. I write all of this to say that we need to seek to view whatever issues we face from the perspective of being the transformed (non-conformed) people of God. When you simply spew vitriolic rhetoric rooted in a party-line then your witness is compromised. Rather, speak out of the patient compassion of Jesus Christ whose spirit dwells within you.
The inside-out nature of Christ’s work in your life inhibits imitation. Christ desires to live through your authentic ideals and their subsequent actions. At the heart of transformation is the same recognition that John the Baptist shares in John 3:30 which states, “
He must become greater I must become less
.” That is what happens when you choose authenticity over imitation. That’s an authentic faith. We will talk more about that this Sunday, but I pray you will consider your engagement in both dialogue and action on hot button issues accordingly to your transformed nature in Christ and no longer through a conformed opinion based on worldly wisdom.
Expecting His Best,
Stephen V. Allen