Permission to Rebel and a Command to Conform
Daily life is full of pressure to conform to the values of the people around me and the values of our culture. My own heart is full of pressure to rebel against anyone who "tells me what I should do" and full of a drive to "follow my own heart." And I -- just like the rest of us redeemed sinners -- need to keep hearing the same messages over and over again about what I should submit to, what I should rebel against, and what will really satisfy.
I have been exposed a lot to Romans 12 over the last few years, thanks to one of our ministers, Jim Birchfield. And the passage going from Romans 11 to Romans 12 was always one of my favorite passages, even before that. We have been grafted into the tree -- made a part of the People of the Covenant -- by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. And in view of that mercy, we have no logical alternative (credit for that wording goes to Rev. Birchfield) than to present everything we have and everything we are to Jesus, and to live in the intimacy of the Church with Agape as our prevailing ethic and the Holy Spirit as our power to live it out.
This is pretty radical stuff when you apply it each day and each moment for days on end. That central verse -- "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." -- ties in perfectly with the verses in Galations about the fruit of the Spirit -- "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. . . For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."
Now, I love the idea of freedom from being told what I need to do, and freedom from being judged by the people around me. Am I released to do whatever my heart leads me to do, and in that way "find myself" and throw off the constraints of society? Is that our call?
No, our call goes back to Jesus' words in John 14-16. We are to ABIDE. We are to obey HIM. We are to live in community with His other followers, and show we are His followers by the love we have for each other. And He did not leave us as orphans, trying to walk this out on our own -- in community or otherwise. He sent His Spirit to indwell us and to lead us into this freedom.
We are called to rebel, though! We are called to rebel against our own sin and it's hold on us. We are called to rebel against the values of the culture around us as they idolize things that have nothing to do with God's values. We are called to rebel against elements in our community that would constrain us to live in any way that does not produce the fruit of the Spirit.
And we are called to conform! We are called to conform to the process that allows us to be transformed:
1) remain in relationship with Jesus as the one who gets to call the shots
2) learn to hear Him through His word, through prayer and meditation and the other spiritual disciplines, and through our intimate relationships within the community of faith
3) let His Holy Spirit transform us -- individually and in community -- as real life shows up the ways we lack the fruit of the Spirit and the ways we have not given ourselves over to Him and His agenda.
And our transformation will result in His agenda being accomplished -- in each of our lives, in each of our communities of faith, and in the world around us.
And His Kingdom is the place where we all will be truly and fully satisfied.