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