Do not conform to the pattern of this world. Romans 12:2
During college, I spent a good chunk of a summer in Venezuela. The food was astounding, the people delightful, the weather and hospitality beautiful. Within the first day or two, however, I recognized that my views on time management weren’t shared by my new friends. If we planned to have lunch at noon, this meant anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. The same for meetings or travel: timeframes were approximations without rigid punctuality. I learned that my idea of “being on time” was far more culturally formed than I’d realized.
All of us are shaped by the cultural values that surround us, usually without us ever noticing. Paul calls this cultural force the “world” (Romans 12:2). Here, “world” doesn’t mean the physical universe, but rather refers to the ways of thinking pervading our existence. It refers to the unquestioned assumptions and guiding ideals handed to us simply because we live in a particular place and time.
Paul warns us to be vigilant to “not conform to the pattern of this world.” Instead, we must be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2). Rather than passively taking on the ways of thinking and believing that engulf us, we’re called to actively pursue God’s way of thinking and to learn how to understand His “good, pleasing and perfect will” (v. 2). May we learn to follow God rather than every other voice.
How would you describe the values and assumptions that surround you? What would it look like for you to not conform to the world’s ways and to instead follow Jesus’ ways?
God, I don’t even recognize my assumptions and values most of the time. Help me to live out Your truth and Your mind in it all.
The Greek word phronéō (to think, exercise the mind) gets a lot of play in Romans 12. In the original language, it’s used four times in Romans 12:3 presenting three different forms of the word. The English Standard Version offers a more literal rendering of this verse: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This same word appears twice in Romans 12:16. This comes through more clearly in the New American Standard Version: “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind.” The transformation of our lives includes a change in the way we think.