Conforming or Transforming?
by Meghan Kleppinger
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.
Romans 12:2, NAS
“Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity.” -- Charles Spurgeon
Reading down a top magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923 made my pulse quicken and my heart sink. As an avid and admittedly often obnoxiously-distracted-in-public reader (I always have a book on me in case the opportunity to read arises – like when I’m waiting for coffee, caught up in traffic, or standing in a line at the department of motor vehicles, to name a few examples), I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I nearly had a panic attack, not because of any distaste or disagreement over the books chosen, but because of the number of books listed that I haven’t read yet. Quickly, I made my way to both the local library and Amazon.com websites and planned to start building my reserve list and filling my online shopping cart. As I moved my mouse to the search box so I could enter my selection, a little something I like to call “common sense” came over me.
Scolding myself, I whispered with clenched teeth, “Meghan, get a hold of yourself!”
After a few deep breaths, there was a point of rational thinking when I realized that I didn’t even know who wrote the list and that more than half of the books selected would never have been personal choices simply because of my dislike for the authors or the types of literature. I know and read what I like. Occasionally, I’ll try something new or especially challenging just for fun, but mostly I’m loyal to a small circle of favorite authors.
Isn’t easy to get caught up in what everybody is doing? Polls, magazines, television advertisements and movies are constantly telling us how to think, what to wear, who to vote for, what to watch, and in this case, what to read.
As Christians, we need to be especially careful with messages dictating what is “in.” This list of books, for example, had several titles I shouldn’t read simply because I am a Christ follower. It’s not about whether I can “handle” the content, it’s about living a life that reflects and pleases Christ. When I choose to read a book, I’m making a decision to commit hours and hours engrossed in that story.
As we choose what to wear, listen to, watch, or read, we need to be remember what Scripture says about how we spend our time and what we spend our time focusing on.
“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
A friend shared with me that a literature teacher at her Christian college was constantly putting down Christian authors and their books, and encouraging the students to read “good” literature instead. Our discussion concluded with a couple of great thoughts.
First, just because something is written well, doesn’t make it “good” or appropriate for Christians. In the same way, just because something is written by a Christian, doesn’t mean it makes for a good read. Most importantly, however, how can we justify spending time on books that don’t glorify God when there are countless wholesome and well written books available… written by both Christian and non-Christian authors?
In light of eternity, when I face Jesus one day, I don’t think the excuse that I “dwelt” on something that didn’t glorify God was because, “It was an award-winning book or movie,” will fly. Actually, I would be ashamed to say I let popularity or a good story get in the way of my relationship with Him.
Basically, when my time on earth is through, I want it to be clear that transforming into the likeness of Christ was more important to me than conforming to the culture.
Intersecting Faith & Life: As Christians, we need to remember that everything we have belongs to God… and with that in mind, consider how we are spending His time