I have a relative who grew up in the same area as myself. As an adult, she took a job that required her to live in many different parts of the United States. She would spend three to six months in each location before moving on to the next. Everywhere she lived, she would pick up the accents of the local residents. It was something she didn’t notice until she would visit home and people would remark on her latest accent. After several years of traveling the country, she now has an accent that is unrecognizable by region, instead, it appears to be a compilation of many regions. If you were to meet her, you would have a very difficult time guessing where she is from.
Did she set out to change the way she speaks? No, but the change occurred anyway. Why did her speech change? First, because she didn’t pay attention. She wasn’t thinking about it. She was just living her life. She was surrounded by people who spoke with a certain accent and she just picked it up. Second, it’s possible that if she had thought about it, she might have liked it and liked fitting in. She wouldn’t have to feel like the outsider, different than everyone else. Third, it didn’t really matter, did it? It was just a small thing. But all those small changes in the way she spoke, completely changed her speech to the point that she sounds nothing like she did before she left home. Her conformation led to transformation.
So what does all this have to do with living the Christian life? Scripture says we are not to conform to the world, yet the world is always demanding our conformation – and conform we do, many times without even realizing it. Using the innocent example of someone picking up accents from various locations, let’s break it down. First, if we want to follow God’s command to not conform, then unlike the above example, we must pay attention. We have to think about how we are living and what is influencing our behavior and our belief system. We cannot just live life on autopilot and think we can maintain our spirituality, Christian ethics, and beliefs. If we don’t pay attention and guard against worldly values and influences, we will be affected by them. Living the Christian life means to live it intentionally, with awareness.
Second, if we’re honest with ourselves, we like to fit in. All of our lives we strive to feel like we belong, like we are part of the group. Think back to your school days. There were definite social groups and you, like most everyone else, really wanted to be in the group with the “cool” kids. Even as adults, many of us still carry that desire to be one of the people in the “in” group. This desire is contrary to scripture and one we have to struggle against. Scripture tells us to be in the world, but not of the world. It tells us to not conform to the world. A Christian, by nature, will never completely fit in because we do not embrace the beliefs and values of the world at large. Our desire to “fit in” should be replaced with the desire to follow God’s Word, no matter what.
Lastly, we must be on guard. Conforming to the world does not happen in one fell swoop. No, it happens one very small compromise at a time. We find ourselves sitting with a group of co-workers who are putting down another co-worker, but instead of standing up for the person or getting up and walking away, we just sit there. Small compromise. We take on a task, do it well, and receive compliments for our efforts. We revel in the attention, caring more about the opinions of those around us instead of glorifying God. Compromise. Each small compromise we make involves sin like gossip, pride, or selfishness. Each small compromise we make is a small step taken in conforming to the world. If we do not guard ourselves, our conformation will lead to transformation and we will become one with the world.
God wants us to be transformed, but He wants us to be transformed by His Word into someone who reflects the glory of the Lord, not our own. It will take effort and awareness. We will have to live deliberately, with God’s Word as our guide. Living by the Word will mean we won’t fit in and will feel awkward at times. That’s okay. Jesus didn’t fit in either. But I promise you this, it will be worth it. So keep up your guard and your eyes open. Watch out for those small compromises that slowly transform you into a friend of the world. Instead, focus on the transformation God has planned for you – the one that comes with the ultimate gift of immortality with His Son. You won’t regret it.