For a freedom loving people, conformity is the proverbial slippery slope. It’s what we must be on guard for; vigilant about. For a Christ loving people, it should be no less a concern. We should be no less watchful.
Romans 12:2 (NAS): 2 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.
How great is the Spirit’s insight and inspiration that Paul would use the passive voice here? It’s wonderfully insightful because it suggests conformity to the world is not something we do, it’s something done to us. This says two important things. First, the world is actively engaged in conforming us. Second, because that’s so, if we are not actively resisting, then we are being conformed. I love JB Phillips’ translation of this verse. He says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into it’s mold.”
In The Toxic Mold
Well it seems the world has squeezed us into its mold. Metaphorically, toxic is a great word to describe some behaviors and relationships. It needs little explanation; people get it. In fact, I wish I had thought of it. It adds color to the tedium of description. But as useful as the metaphor may be, we have found ourselves conformed to the ideology that’s formed around it. And ironically, an ideology of toxicity has proven toxic to our faith.
A New Kind Of Sinner
The very nature of toxicity is its harmfulness. It’s only toxic because it destroys health and must, rightfully, be avoided. It’s this stretching of the metaphor that has developed into an ideology. If a person or a relationship is deemed toxic, then it’s only right and wise to sever the relationship. We have been conformed to the notion that toxic is a wholly other category of sinner. One who’s burdens are not worth bearing. One not worthy of long suffering or forgiveness up to seventy times seven.
While We Were Yet Toxic
If we had just used the metaphor alone. If we had not stretched it into an ideology. It would have been effective in the cause of the Gospel. Sin is toxic, there’s no denying that. And sin does destroy relationships. God was right to sever His relationship with the toxic. But toxic is not a unique category. Because we all have sin, we are all toxic. The only reason we conceive of others fitting a uniquely toxic group is because we are not fully acquainted with the toxicity of our own sinfulness.
Yet scripture describes us all as toxic people. It says of us all that our mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. It says of each of us that destruction and misery are in our paths. We have not know the path of peace. We have fought with everyone we have known and loved. Our feet are swift to shed blood. None of us are without toxicity, not even one.
Renewing Our Minds
But thanks be to God, scripture also says that God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet toxic, Christ died for us. He loved us when we were toxic, and in Christ, He reconciled Himself to a toxic people, declaring us clean.
When I behold my natural face in the mirror. When I see in my own face the horrid toxicity I see in others. And when I lay that image before the demonstrated love of God, who would have been right to have nothing to do with me. I am astonished by the depths of His sacrifice. That He would offer the shameful, public death of His Son on behalf of the toxic, flies astoundingly in the face of the toxic ideology we have been conformed to. And it transforms me. It renews my mind. It softens me to the toxicity I see in the faces of my brothers and sisters. And I am able to prove that the perfect will of God is that they too may be transformed by the demonstrated love of God for the toxic.