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. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1 urged us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. As Christians, we honor God by living for him each day, devoting our bodies to his purposes. Romans 12:2 begins with a negative exhortation: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Literally, the Greek might be translated, “Do not keep on being conformed to this age.” “This age” includes “the behavior and customs of this world” insofar as they are contrary to God’s truth and will.
The verb meaning “do not be conformed” appears in the present tense. In Greek, the present imperative mood conveys a sense of ongoing action. Romans 12:2 assumes that not being conformed to this world isn’t something we do once and then we’re finished. Rather, we are to keep on resisting the patterns and ways of the fallen world. This is a daily, even an hourly choice to say “No” to this world so that we might say “Yes” to God.
Increasingly, Christians are feeling the tension between “the behavior and customs of this world” and the biblical vision of human flourishing. This has been true for a long time for believers in many parts of the world. In the United States, however, it was once fairly easy to think of oneself as an ordinary Christian and an ordinary American. But this time is quickly passing. More and more, we who name Jesus as Lord find that we must reject the “lordship” of our culture, wherever we might live on this globe. Such rejection requires careful, Spirit-led attention to the ways in which our world contradicts the ways of God. Then we need courage to say “No” to this world so that we might say “Yes” to God. Yet this doesn’t mean withdrawing from the world. As countercultural people, we live in this world for God’s purposes and glory.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Where do you feel this world seeking to press you into its mold? What if the “world” you need to reject includes the values or practices of your workplace? What helps you to see the godless aspects of your world with clarity?
Today I hear your call not to “copy the behavior and customs of this world.” You are instructing me to reject the ways of this world that are contrary to your ways. If I’m to do this, Lord, I need to see myself and my world as you see me. I need new clarity of vision to see through the lies and pretenses of my culture. I need especially to see where I have bought into these without even knowing it. So help me, Lord, to see with your eyes, so that I might say “No” to the fallen ways of this world.
At the same time, I ask you to keep me from the temptation of withdrawing from this world and its people. May I continue to live in this world for you and your purposes. Use me, Lord, as a channel of your grace, truth, and love wherever I may be. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.