Sunday, January 23, 2005

Conformity

Romans 12:2 (New International Version)

“2Do not conform any longer 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.”


Several years ago I ordered a movie titled “The Hoodlum Priest.” I’d told Nancy a little bit about the film, which I’d seen when I was still a teenager living in Boston, and she decided that she wanted to see it. It’s the story of Charles Dismas Clark, a Jesuit priest who founded Dismas House, a ministry that provided housing, food, and employment for former prison inmates.

The ministry was enormously successful. By 1963, four years after its opening, over two thousand parolees had received the benefits of Dismas House, and “95-98% of them had been successfully rehabilitated.”

It was a gritty film, no Oscar winner, but it had its moments. One came at the end of the story. Billy Jackson, one of Father Clark’s parolees who had tried, but failed in his attempt to be rehabilitated, has just been executed. Outside the prison there is a lone protester carrying a sign calling for capital punishment to be abolished. A prison guard walks up to him and offers the man a cigarette. The man accepts and as the guard lights the cigarette he says, “You know buddy, you can’t change the world by carrying signs around.” The protester takes a drag from the cigarette and responds, “I’m not trying to change the world, I’m just trying to keep the world from changing me.”

That line has always struck a chord with Nancy and me.

The lonely protestor was right. His act may have looked futile, but he was right. He may have seemed like he was all alone, but his non-conformity based on principle, put him in good company. The real issue that the film was addressing, you see, wasn’t capital punishment or political action; it was conformity to the worst in society and its detrimental effect on us.

The lesson of the film is especially right for the Christian pilgrim. So often we want to change and reshape our world and find ourselves being conformed to it instead. The result is that the world changes us instead of us changing the world.

There’s an image that we’re supposed to conform to. It’s not the image of a politician or “super-star.” This is the image we’re to conform to in this world where conformity so often strips us of our dignity and our individuality:

Romans 8:28-29 (New International Version)

“28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[
a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

These are my thoughts this Sunday morning.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

When Jesus said, "It is finished" and died, the veil of the temple parted from the top down.

That veil had separated between the worshippers and the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest had been able to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies - and only once a year.

From that moment on, humans have had personal and individual access to God without the previously required intermediary. God forever validated the Individual person and signed Graceful credibility fulfilled by the death of His Son.

Primary school arithmetic teaches: "The whole is the sum of its parts."

Parting of the veil affirms that "changing a part changes the whole."

Individuals do have power to change the world. The Scriptures remind us that when we are "With God nothing is impossible."

a Choicemaker
Psalm 25:12

kilo said...

Great blog sir!
I too supported Democrats, but it seems the roles of the parties have " flip-flopped"..your page is a daily read for me..God bless