“Do not be conformed to this world…” I would be unable to count the times I used this phrase to argue in favor of my moralistic stance on a particular issue. If I encountered someone who wasn’t living up to the moral code that was developing within me I would accuse them of forsaking God and whoring themselves out to the world. It really was that simple to me. If I did something that my faith community would see as sinful, I felt that I was conforming to the world. If I read my Bible, prayed and didn’t look up porn then I was conforming only to God’s will.
This way of seeing worked for me. Well, it did until it didn’t. I began seeing more and more people who followed the rules, but still looked an awful lot like the world Jesus turned on end repeatedly. I started to realize that I was stuck in a pattern of policing those around me through a worldview that was formed by a dysfunctional hybrid of the Bible and the dualistic mindset of my culture. Essentially, I was arrogantly calling others out who didn’t think like me and I called it Christian faithfulness. Honestly, this can’t only be talked about in the past tense. I fall into this pattern more than I would like to admit.
Unfortunately, I am not the exception when it comes to this expression of the Christian faith. Many of us approach Scripture with a very worldly mind. We are reading them with the wrong questions leading us. We are overly concerned with proving our own group “right” and someone else’s “wrong”. We then look for Scriptures to throw into the face of those who fall into our simple minded “wrong” category. This pattern carries the entirely destructive power to convince us that we have been transformed, when in reality we just took the same dualistic template of the world and threw some religious language into it. We need to become more aware of the next part of this passage.
“…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I don’t believe that Paul is calling for a change in what we think, but rather how we think. He sees a deep relationship with God as leading to our own inner transformation. He sees that until we allow our “us v. them” mind to be shifted into seeing the Divine Image everywhere, “God’s will” can only be a reflection of our own ego driven agendas.
When we approach the Scriptures with humility, knowing that we are no more “wrong” or “right” in God’s eyes than anyone else, we stop seeing ammunition. Instead we rest in knowing that we are all fully accepted. We begin to see a call to come back to what Jesus taught was the greatest command to those who will follow Him; to love God, to love the Other and to love the self. Whether the other is our neighbor or our enemy, we are directly challenged to love that person.
Only a person who has allowed their way of thinking to be renewed and who no longer over identifies themselves through their “rightness” can actually do this. The rest of us will continue to be trapped in the over simplistic cycle of demonizing the other in an effort to justify ourselves externally. This becomes our pattern and it is absolutely of the world. Even if we decorate it with Christian language, the pattern is no less worldly than when it is practiced in the cutthroat political system so many of us despise.