Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
By nature we are all conformists. We want to be just like everybody else. Even if we think we are trying to be different and breaking from the crowd, there is probably some smaller group of friends we are trying to be like. No one I know wants to be so different and original that they are like no one else at all.
Many times our desire to conform is harmless. Whether you and your friends prefer an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy makes no difference from a spiritual point of view. There is no sin involved if you cheer for the local sports franchise because that is what everyone else does in your city or state. It’s okay to change your mind about that if you move away someday.
But we know that the desire to conform can also get us into a heap of trouble. There are groups waiting to lead impressionable teens into drugs, pornography, vandalism, picking on others, or cheating in school. Adult Christians are tempted to conform to the same politics and backstabbing at the office, taking things home that don’t belong to them, or messed-up materialistic priorities of their unbelieving neighbors.
Breaking away from the pattern of the world around us requires more than a good set of rules to follow. We know the rules. Many of us have been able to recite them since first or second grade. There may be no part of the Bible more familiar than the 10 commandments.
The world around us knows the commandments, too. Maybe they don’t know them by number, but they know the general content. Sometimes those commandments even scare them enough to get them to do the right thing.
But God doesn’t want to control us by way of fear. Those of us with younger brothers and sisters may have used fear to keep them out of our things. We threatened to do something to them if they messed with our stuff. Did it make the family feel closer to each other? It may have been an effective way to keep their hands off our property, but it didn’t make them love us more. It didn’t stop them from wanting to get into our stuff, either. If you were the younger brother or sister on the receiving end of the bullying tactics, you know what I mean.
God doesn’t want to bully us into behaving. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. He wants us to change our mind about all things sinful. He wants our tastes to change, so that more and more we find sin as disgusting as he does. You wouldn’t drink raw sewage. That’s disgusting. You wouldn’t even be tempted. The Lord wants us to be transformed, to be changed, so that sin doesn’t look like getting a big, creamy milk shake to drink. It’s more like someone offering a glass of stinky, slimy raw sewage. Yuck!
That’s why Paul began this chapter of Romans by reminding his readers that God’s mercy was in view. The commandments can make us afraid, but the gospel changes our hearts. Keep looking at God’s grace and mercy. The more we realize how much Jesus forgives, the more aware we are of the depth of his love for us, the more we comprehend the sacrifices he made to save us, the more our heart is filled with love for him. Then his Spirit is busy changing our tastes. We truly desire to serve others, and we become a new person. The sight of God’s mercy transforms us by the power of his love.