When was the last time you did something that was outside your “comfort zone”? Doing that can be stressful and even scary. This past February my wife went on a missionary work trip to Jamaica. It was something that had been on her bucket list for a long time that she had never been able to do. But as s the time neared for her to go her apprehension grew. She was going to a primitive area of a third-world country. The food, the diseases, the climate, the living conditions, all were part of the unknown and that began to prey on her mind. Would she be able to handle everything? She would be way outside her comfort zone!! Fear of the unknown is a common human condition. It is why most of us prefer to not change. Change involves going outside our comfort zones into the unknown. We therefore prefer to conform to the world around us rather than be transformed into something different from the world around us.
And yet, transformation is something that God calls for us to do and be as Christians. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman churches: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
It is so easy to conform. To go along with the crowd. To not stand out as different in the culture. To be “one of the sheep in the flock”. We will be comfortable when we conform. We know the rules and the mores and, if we follow them, others will relate well to us and not judge us or criticize us or harass us about what we are doing. In fact we will receive the applause of the rest of the conformists because we are “team players” and not different from them. We will be a part of “the system” and not a threat to the status quo and thus a threat to the system.
But if we criticize the status quo; if we suggest radical change to improve our society; if we point out the evil and social injustice in our economic system; if we denounce the lies and the role of money in buying elections; if we suggest that the poor and needy are being trampled; if we speak of systemic social injustice; then we will stand out from the rest of the crowd. People will hurl insults at us,in the same way they treated the ancient prophets and Jesus; or they will throw rocks, or they will denounce us, or they will sue or imprison us or kill us. We don’t know what they will do, but we do know we will become a targe when we venture into these things. We are venturing into the unknown and are far outside our comfort zone. It can be scary. It can be stressful. It can be dangerous. It can be lethal. The point is, we don’t know.
So what is this transformation that Paul talks about? What happens to us and to our churches when we are transformed in the way that Paul exhorts? Two radical changes take place:
- God becomes the center and driving force of our lives rather than ourselves being that center and driving force.
- God becomes the center and driving force of our churches rather than the needs of the institution being the center and driving force.
And when these two things happen, we have become spiritually transformed as we let God determine our actions rather than our personal needs and our institutional church’s needs. That’s what Paul means by saying “renewal of our minds”. And suddenly we are able to more clearly discern what God has been trying to tell us all along. We can see our mission, as individuals and as a church more clearly. We can catch a glimpse of God’s will for us and for our churches. Our minds have been renewed as we now are getting outside our comfort zone and therefore we can make a difference for God in our world.
Be transformed by the renewal of your minds! Get outside of your comfort zone!