Terry R. Baughman
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Conformity often sounds like a negative trait. It may be a loss of individuality and independence. It is adjusting to the status quo, blending in to avoid distinction. Conforming is a certain surrender of uniquely identifying characteristics and yielding to the standards of sameness.
Whether conformity is a negative trait is largely dependent upon the model being copied. When one conforms to peer pressure and is involved in criminal activity or adopts behaviors that are antisocial we would say conformity is bad. However, if one begins to model the good behaviors in others and conforms to new trends of healthy eating and good physical activities we would view that as positive conformity.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans he used the contrast of being “conformed to this world” or “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Clearly the positive virtues come through transformation rather than conformity. Transformation also recognizes the external and spiritual influence aiding the followers to adopt the positive behaviors modeled in other disciples of Jesus.
The New Living Translations renders this challenge as “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” As much as we like to think that we are independent minded individuals, the truth is we are all affected by the culture, society, our environment, education, and countless other external influences. It is our choice to resist the temptation to mimic the ever-present negative role models and to pursue the Christ-life. Commit to follow the teaching of Jesus; model your behaviors to match those who have become mentors in discipleship; seek to imitate the actions of others who are being led of the Spirit and live overcoming lives.
One of the best ways to frame these distinctions in discipleship transformation comes from the paraphrase from The Message in Romans 12:1-2:
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Seek to be transformed through the power of the Spirit, a new creation in Christ Jesus. Forsake the past patterns of conformity and carnal imitation and embrace transformation liberty in the spiritual pursuit of a life of discipleship.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).