Be Not Conformed: A Reflection on Romans 12:1-8
Shared on Sunday August 27th, 2017
@80 S. 5th Street in Downtown San Jose
It is Pride Weekend here in the South Bay and we are giving thanks for all of the places that love is allowed to express itself as it is meant to. In my lifetime we have come a long way!
It gives me hope that tides can turn and windows can open and new possibilities can emerge. We pray for all of the movement that has been and that is yet to be. We give thanks for art and music and community as an instrument to express who we are and what we dream.
Pride offers all of us an invitation to come out with who we are and who we are created to be, to give the world all that we have in rainbows and to join the lure that calls us onward in hope.
Hope has felt a bit in short supply of late.
Public and private conversations seem to go in circles picking up despair. Naming problems. Critiquing without accountability. Hope is hidden under a cultural commitment to cynicism and blame.
So I feel this growing urgency, this heightened sense, that when we come together each week, we will remember our role in tending to hope; we will double down on being light. We will be louder with our love.
And this week I am reminded not just of our role in being the embodiment of hope, peace and joy in the world, but of a unique Christian commitment: Do not be conformed.
In just one paragraph, writing to a community in Rome in the First Century, Paul gives some steps or a sort of recipe for how to live a life of transformation over conformity.
Kirk Jones points out, “In just eight verses Paul communicates weighty useful truth about what the faithful just do in order not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of their minds…” Here is our list for “practicing love in households of faith and toward the public at large.” Here is our path to transformation:
Sacrifice, radical commitment, sacred mindfulness, transformative grace, intentionality, communal unity and vocational awareness.
One commentator Eleazar Fernandez contends that within these verses in Romans “gives us an understanding of what it means to be a church.”
I feel as if I struggle to know exactly how to make sense of this in our time. There are so many ways in which I do not want to conform to the world around me. I don’t want to see homelessness as normal and conform to the idea that tents part of economic growth. I don’t want to conform to the notion that making eye contact with strangers is a thing of the past. I don’t want to conform to the constant appetite for war. I don’t want to conform to the idol of money. I don’t want to conform to the Americanized, individualized life. I don’t want to conform to the superficial, all about me, short-term thinking milieu. I don’t want to conform to the use of plastics and chemicals. I don’t want to conform to what’s easy over what’s right. What does that mean for you? Take a moment with this question as we sit in silence together… What is it you don’t want to conform to?
It is our call to not conform.
And it is not easy.
I give thanks for this place and this group of people, because not conforming doesn’t happen in isolation. We belong to one another or as the text says, “and individually we are members of one another,” which means not conforming is too difficult to do on our own.
In order to live out sacrifice, commitment, mindfulness, grace, intentionality, unity and awareness, we must understand this could make us stand out, set us apart, put us in a place that requires more than our individual capacities.
Whether it is making a sacrifice with our time, our gifts or our bodies, we must live differently than the world around us.
“Non conformity to the world is the stance that the community of believers must take in light of the life and ministry of Jesus to this age…”
Beloved of God, not one of us journeys alone, so let us not be afraid to follow where the Spirit leads, to accompany one another in our individual and collective call to not conform.
Let us accept the invitation to come out with who we are and who we are created to be, to give the world all that we have in rainbows and to join the lure that calls us onward in hope. Be not conformed…
 Kirk Byron Jones on Romans 12:1-8 Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 3 Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Proper 3-16)