Conform Intentionally to Move Strong

©Joy Dunlap

The first and only Grateful Dead concert I attended found me dressed in a formal.

As far as I could tell, only two of us wore evening dresses to that sold out concert in Atlanta.

Being different from the deadheads just wasn’t done.

Our unique dress wasn’t a statement of any sort. My colleague and I had just come from a fancy work-related dinner and one of our board members had gifted us with tickets to the much-hyped event. There was no time to change clothes without missing the rest of the concert.

So there we were among thousands of people who were wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, some with skeleton heads and other notable motifs.

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“We’re non-conformists,” I answered.

The look I got in response was quizzical.  After all, they felt they were the non-conformists – yet at that concert they dressed and mostly acted the same.

These days there’s a lot of talk about individuality, but in reality a lot of conformity is happening.  And the pressure for cultural conformity is powerful.

Merriam-Webster sums up the basic meaning of conform as “to adopt the form of those around you.” “Behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards” is one definition used by Oxford Languages.

But what is socially acceptable may put us out of spiritual alignment.

Christians are called to be different – and to make a difference in the world.  Yet there’s a lot of conformity going on among Christians with those following the ways of the world. It’s not always easy to tell who’s who.

The Bible does address what we as believers should and shouldn’t conform to:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:2-3 NIV (Bold added)

As different as we are, we all conform in some ways, but when that conformity transforms us in a positive, life-enhancing, God-connected way, our desires and our actions change so as to be distinctive.  

In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we’re instructed to live differently than we did before we knew Christ, to now live lives of holiness, shedding our sinful desires.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

What we conform to is the important question. Intentional and impactful conformity is not about what clothes we wear outside but about who we choose to mirror inside. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28-29 NIV, Bold added)

When we love God, and are pursuing His purpose, we will more and more model the values and character displayed by Christ. 

In a “Be Different” message, the pastor of the multi-site Summit Church, J.D. Greear, comments:

Jesus’ ministry was a paradox because there has never been anyone who so exalted God’s purity and perfection– he said that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than one jot or title of God’s moral code be compromised–and yet who, at the same time, so effectively gathered the outcast and the non-religious beside him—be they the prostitutes, the tax collectors—they all wanted to be around him. Why? Because his life pointed to an entirely different kingdom, a heavenly kingdom of purity and wholeness and grace. Watching his life was like watching someone dance to a different beat, a heavenly beat.

What rhythm are we rocking to? 

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Are the stands we take or opinions we voice solely consistent with society, or are they solidly grounded in Scripture?
  • Have we modified our values, voice, language, character, lifestyle or witness toward or away from Christ’s teachings and example?
  • Are we dressing the part, but not feeling it in our heart?

Whether we conform to the world isn’t about politics nor is it about preferences; it’s about whether we choose to know God’s Word and walk His way, even when it’s in a different direction from the masses. 

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:23-24 NIV

  • When have you worn something to an event that was not in sync with what others had on?  How did you feel?
  • What is an issue you’ve stood up for that is in line with God’s truth but against popular thought?
  • In what ways have you felt pressured to mimic crowd mentality?
  • How do you feel you most/least conform to the example Christ gave us?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-5 NIV


Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™

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