The church’s great need: transformed nonconformists
Rev. Eric Strachen
In spite of the prevailing tendency to conform, we as Christians have a mandate to be nonconformists.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
To the best of my knowledge it was the black civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who first coined that term, ‘transformed nonconformists’. Preaching with both eloquence and fire back in the now historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the 25-year-old activist was challenging his listeners to change the shape of the world they were living in.
Luther King Jr. had taken as his text the Apostle Paul’s words from the classic Book of Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (The Bible, Romans 12:2). In addressing his hearers he would say with clarity and conviction, “Nowhere is the tragic tendency to conform more evident than in the church.” With absolute certainty Luther’s sermon is custom designed for today’s church, for we are surely living in the Third Millennium in the new Dark Age where decency and morality have plummeted to new depths of degradation. Dark age is a strong term, and I recognize that, but for those of us with some degree of discernment there is the acute sense that the storm clouds are gathering on the distant horizon.
You may recall that when Paul was addressing the Roman church that Rome was considered to be the centre of the universe, it was the global place to be, the super power of it’s day, a Washington or a Moscow, but together with that Rome had become a cesspool of iniquity, Biblical sexual values had been tossed to the wind and sexual deviation was prevalent in the culture. In addressing the issue the apostle Paul said of the Romans, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...” (The Bible, Romans 1:21-22) The result of the Roman citizenry wilfully ignoring God and his commands on sexual purity was spiritual impoverishment and sexual immorality. That is always the case, when any society, any group, ignores God and sticks their fingers in their noses to his decrees and commands one of the inevitable consequences is always sexual chaos and deviance. Paul elaborated as he spoke, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” he said, “Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” (The Bible, Romans 1:25-27)
When you understand the historical context of Paul’s writing, you then can clearly perceive why Paul said what he did to the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform…be transformed.” Without doubt, in our contemporary culture everyone who calls themselves ‘Christian’ must be ‘a transformed nonconformist’! To be a nonconformist means in essence that I adamantly refuse to embrace the values and lifestyles that have become mainstream in today’s society. I choose not to follow the crowd. Now the
challenge with nonconformity for Christians is that we dare not fall into the trap of proud and smug self-righteousness. Too often throughout the history we’ve witnessed this in Christian circles, a condescending, condemning, disdainful approach towards non-Christians whose beliefs and lifestyles are radically different from ours. That is not Christlike. No, we must be different, we must be like Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The calling on our life is to be nonconformist, but it is also to be transformed into His likeness.
What our culture is in desperate need of witnessing with its naked eye is men and women of Christian persuasion who clearly display Christlikeness in their very character, men and women who take a stand for the truth, yet men and women who unconditionally love and accept their peers and contemporaries whatever their beliefs and sexual values may be.
There is no doubt that we in the genuine church must be transformed nonconformists, but let me suggest to you that to be such can be costly. But whatever the cost it must be paid. The question for all of us who profess to follow Christ must assuredly be, “Will we march to the drumbeat of conformity as we live our life on this planet, or will we choose to be the genuine followers of Jesus Christ who march to the drumbeat of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, taking a valiant and courageous stand for truth, while manifesting in our very character the premier distinctive of our faith…love?”
We are in a battle, dear brother and sister! I sincerely hope in this day and age these words do not find you AWOL, absent without leave, but instead I trust that your are rushing to the front lines, sword and shield in hand, singing as you go, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!”