12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)
Third Sunday in Lent
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Last week we focused on the “altaring” side of Lenten reflections. This week Romans 12:1-2 leads us to the “altering” side
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould” (J.B. Phillips). Both Eugene Peterson and J. B. Phillips offer powerful images for Paul's admonition here. Of all the things one might give up for Lent, what Paul urges us to stay away from here is far and away the one we need to heed. Paul builds on his previous call for his readers to offer their “everyday, ordinary life” to God for his use in the world. And here's the needed response: “don't become so well-adjusted to your culture” (Peterson) or the Phillips' rendering (which I love), “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.”
Here's what Paul knows that we often forget. We're always being educated, shaped, formed by the myriads of ideas, people, causes, and those supra-human forces Paul calls the “principalities and powers whose God-given job I to establish and sustain the conditions for human flourishing. Tragically, these powers have somehow chosen to be the world's rulers rather than God's servants on our behalf. Much of life's distortions and dehumanization come from them. Christ defeated these rebellious powers at the cross and part of our role as his people is to be his way of letting the powers know that their reign is over and their pacification is underway (Eph.3:10).
If we are to live fully immersed in life, then, we must learn to “determine what is best” (Phil.3:10). Everything outside of God is attempting to educate us in some way of life or another different from and opposed to God's way for us. God intends us to interact with all these people and things. To be in the midst of the fray. Discernment is the gift God has given us to negotiate our way in these interactions and relationships.
Discernment is a community process. That's why Paul prays for this gift for the Philippian church. Rooted in worship, which we'll look at next week, the church must continually make discernments about engaging its culture. This is, in essence, what the epistles display in the New Testament.
But another, even more difficult reality awaits us on the way to discernment. Not only must we face up to influences “out there” that misshape us. But also to the rigor of the changes in us discernment exacts. We start with that next week.