Conform or be hated

Most people do not like being the odd man out. In other words, that person who clearly does not fit in with the rest. Visibly different. Noticeably not like everyone else.

For the most part we learn from a young age to conform. Conform is defined as being similar in form or type, and is even further defined as “to agree with.” Whenever Melinda and I are going to an event where one or the other of us is not certain how most will be dressed, we are careful to make sure we find out. After all, no one wants to be that person who clearly didn’t get the memo, and looks seriously out of place. Most people want to blend in, not stand out.

For the Christian, conformity can be a good thing or a bad thing, based on who we’re conforming to. We are told explicitly not to conform to the world (Rom 12:1), but rather to conform to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). This is where things get really difficult. Why you ask? Well, because Jesus said that “the world” – that same world that we’re not to conform to – actually hates Him! And therefore, it also hates us. That is, those of us who are conforming to Him.

Hate is defined as an intense or passionate dislike. That’s putting it mildly. Hate is a very strong word. So, strong that it’s now become its own crime. But Jesus made it perfectly clear that if you refuse to become a part of the world’s system, meaning that if you refuse to conform to the generally accepted group-think of today’s culture, you should expect hatred and opposition. Like it or not, you will be the odd man out!

And, here lies the conundrum. How does the person who seeks to be dressed like everyone else – to not be unduly noticed or offend the host – accept the fact that the more he conforms to Christ, the more he will be shunned, insulted, ridiculed, called out, and ultimately hated.

Recent research shows that college-aged millennials today are far more likely than the general population to be religiously unaffiliated, compared to previous generations. Just over 60 percent of millennials say they have abandoned Christianity because it is “judgmental”. Which, of course, is another way of saying that Christians clearly did not get the cultural group-think memo. The one that says everyone has the right to do whatever they want, and not be criticized.

So, what will it be? (A) Play it safe, try not to be too different. Do everything you can to fit in with the rest. Or, (B) forget the world and its sinful system, and conform to Christ. Live life as the odd man out, visibly different, and at odds with the status quo.

Jesus says, “Choose B!” The disciples, who ultimately turned the world upside down, were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means “Little Christs.”

“So that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Philippians 2:15

Never Satisfied

Recently, I purchased several things through Amazon. I must admit that Amazon makes it incredibly easy to order just about anything. One thing I really appreciate about buying through Amazon, is the ability to read reviews from those who have previously ordered the same product that I’m considering. The big question is always, “How satisfied are you with your purchase?”

This brings to mind an interesting question. How would you respond if I asked you, “How satisfied are you with life? How you answer that question hinges on many different things. However, for the Christian, there should always be a constant undertone of dissatisfaction with this life. Personally, my dissatisfaction with life on this planet steadily grows as I age. I find fewer and fewer things about this life that truly satisfy.

Here’s an interesting verse from Hebrews chapter eleven. “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. (Hebrews 11:15–16)

As the old hymn states, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” Truth is, we are pilgrims, aliens, if you will. If we’re truly connected to God, and desirous of Him above all else, we will have no desire to scooch in and get really comfortable here.

Verse 14 of Hebrews 11 says that the saints of old (who are being commended for their faith) were seeking a different kind of country than this world offered. And verse 16 says they were desiring something better than what a present earthly existence could offer. They’re personal relationship with Christ was so tangible, so real, that nothing short of heaven would satisfy.

So my challenge to you is this: Make sure that as you grow in Christ, you identify with the promises of God, and experience a change of values, so that you desire and seek after the future God is preparing for you in heaven, more than anything this world has to offer.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21