Some people seem especially good at standing out from a crowd. It is as if they were genetically wired to march to the beat of their own drummer, or maybe not even hear a drummer.
You can spot them, and that’s OK with them. On the other hand, many folks like fitting in. Sure, there are things about them that are helplessly unique; but they like to be able to hide in a crowd. Conformity comes easily, and going unnoticed is wonderful.
For those of us in the second camp who also identify as Christians, there is one glaring problem. Disciples of Christ were always intended to stand out.
In 1 Peter 2.9, Peter describes Christians as “a peculiar people” (KJV). While the thought behind that expression seems to lie in the relationship of God to his people, it certainly could be said that following God will lead one to be “peculiar” in the eyes of the world.
As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul speaks very plainly about the imperative for Christians to be different in Romans chapter 12: “Do not be conformed to this world.”
The language behind that suggests the picture of being pressed into a mold. It is easy for anyone to begin looking like the world around them if they are pressed into the world’s mold. Yet, for Christians, there is an alternative to that type of conformity given by Paul.
I like the way the NLT translates that passage: “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.”
The way to avoid copying the ways of the world around us is to allow God to change our thinking. It isn’t hard to understand why changing our thinking is important, in light of passages like Proverbs 23.7: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” It isn’t what we’ve all heard, that you are what you eat; rather, you are what you think.
Our tendency is to think about our own will, our own desires, our own feelings and our own comfort. When that thinking dominates our minds, our actions will inevitably be selfish and conforming. But the power of God is great to penetrate our hearts and minds, changing our outlook on life. Through his transforming work, we turn our focus on him.
Sometimes all that is required to change our perspective is to realize that we are truly loved by him. Talk about changing the way you think. As one song reminds us: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
I pray that we can all experience the transforming love of God, and that we will become conduits of his love and transformational thinking to the world around us.
Tim Parish is the preaching minister at Maple Hills Church of Christ. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher writing a column each month.