Conformed by culture.

Have you ever wondered why we need the latest iPhone? Why we have the friends we do? Why we dress the way we do?

I remember when I was in high school, I needed to have this Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. This phone had a play/pause button on the side with buttons that could skip a song. It was also so thin that I would often lose it because I couldn’t see it or feel it, meanwhile, it was in my pocket! When I saw this phone being advertised, I had to convince my parents that I needed it, it was pretty much non-negotiable. Eventually, after much begging, whining, and being super nice to my parents I eventually got the phone from a friend in England. When people saw me with this phone they thought I was ‘cool’.

Why did I have to have this phone so badly? What was actually so special about it? Yes, it could do things other phones couldn’t but what was the real reason I wanted it? I think it’s what culture said I should have. If I wanted to fit in and be popular, I had to have this phone. Culture dictates what we should have in order to fit in.

I love what scripture has to say:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” –  Romans 12: 1-2 (MSG)

Culture claims us.

We want to imitate what everyone else is doing. First, something isn’t trending then a popular person starts wearing it, using it or doing it and all of a sudden everyone else follows. A few years ago, you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing sneakers with jeans. But now because popular people (who control the culture) decide to wear it, it all of a sudden it becomes the new style. Why do we feel the need to follow the trend?

One of the latest things culture tells us is to take drugs while out partying. We often hear – ‘Drugs will make you have such a good time’ and ‘you don’t even need to drink’. Now because your mates are doing it or the popular group is doing it or the girl/boy you like is doing it, you do it. You don’t think of any consequences or what it may be doing to you, but because the culture has said it is okay and it’s the thing to do, you do it without even thinking for yourself. Why do we feel the need to do this?

I’m not saying you can’t follow the trend and wear nice stuff, but there are things that culture makes us think are okay to do, such as – talking behind people’s backs, taking drugs, sleeping with as many people as you can and many others. I know some are extreme but that’s the day and age we are living in.

Cast out.

When we decide not to follow the culture one may feel rejected, not ‘cool’ enough, seen as the weird Christian and probably have FOMO. When we follow Jesus and His culture, people will think it is weird. Sometimes we may even choose to go against what Jesus says is the right culture because we won’t be accepted by everyone else. But don’t feel like you’re an outcast if you don’t copy what the world is doing.

Counter the culture.

We need to make sure we focus on God. When you feel the pressure to do what everyone else is doing and it is wrong, we will often get a ‘bad feeling’ about it. Listen to that feeling! It is probably God saying to you, you don’t have to do that, especially to feel accepted. But we often choose to ignore that, just so we fit in. However, when we fix our attention on God, He helps us distinguish what is right and wrong.

When we choose to go against the culture and focus our attention on God we actually learn to know God’s will for ourselves, which is good, pleasing and perfect. What He has in store for us is so much better than what culture says is better. He wants the best for us and to bring the best out in us.

But how?

I love what Paul starts with in this scripture – “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:”

We have to constantly pray and ask God to help us. There is no way we can do this on our own. We can try and try and try but we will probably always turn back to the ways of this world. The more we ask God to help us follow His culture we can surely stop conforming to the world’s culture as much as we do.

Let me close on a story. I used to be one of those guys who would go out and just want to hook up with girls. My friends and I would have competitions and see if we could hook up with a girl. Why? Because the culture says that if you are a guy and you can pull girls, everyone will treat you like a king. It was terrible and still is. But then I met Jesus. Jesus came into my life and He began changing me from the inside out. Literally. Hooking up with girls I didn’t know at clubs became something I couldn’t stand anymore. It did not appeal to me one bit. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. I felt God saying to me that I don’t have to do what my friends are doing. After this had happened I would then go out and not want to hook up and my friends just couldn’t understand. They thought I was being really weird. I did explain to them why. They listened but not all understood. But they still treated me the same, they never cast me out.

God had to really help me here. I had to focus on Him and trust that if I followed Jesus and His culture that I wouldn’t fear rejection and be an outcast. We can’t follow God’s culture without Him helping us follow it, or we will just get lost and go back to the one we know.

It isn’t easy, but it just shows we need God for this and that is perfectly okay.

At the end of the day, Jesus helps us to transform rather than conform to the culture.

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