Renewing Your Mind
A brief recap: When our lives change, it is largely because our thinking changes. It’s hard to think crooked and walk straight. Paul calls us to such a change —a transformation!— in Romans 12:
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. — Romans 12:2
A quick observation. Do not be conformed sounds an awful lot like don’t fall in line, don’t go with the flow. To conform, you have to settle in. Like cake batter into a 9 by 13 pan, it’s going to take on this shape. The cake will conform. The world has a way of doing things and Paul says don’t do it, don’t settle in. There’s a better way.
We often struggle to see what’s present and real. That’s why we have mantras about hindsight. “If I could go back and do this all over again, then I’d…” Paul is giving us a heads up here, so we don’t have to go too far down the wrong path.
The need to be transformed implies we are in process or incomplete. It suggests that we were meant to be more than what we are now. Different. Changed. In fact, in the ancient language, this word for transform is the root of our English word, Metamorphosis.
An egg hatches and a caterpillar is born. In time, the caterpillar will encase itself in a chrysalis and then a butterfly emerges. The transformation is incredible, even beautiful! The newborn larvae was never meant to stay a caterpillar. And in the same way, we are not intended to stay like the broken and sin-ravaged world we have been born into.
We need transformation. We were meant to live for more than this world has to offer. (That should sound like a song lyric. Shout out to Switchfoot!)
I would like to blow past verses 1 and 2 real fast. I won’t type it all out, but go read chapter 12 of Romans. Make some mental notes of the high points Paul hits:
- Verse 3 — don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to, think soberly
- Verse 4 — we are all a part of one body, but have different functions
- Verse 5 — we are one body in Christ, and members of one another
- Verse 6-8 — we all have different gifts and should use them
- Verse 9-13 — don’t let love waver, love one another, serve the Lord, care for each other
- Verse 14 — treat your enemies well
- Verse 15-16 — be empathetic, inclusive, and humble toward others
- Verse 17 — don’t return evil, provide good things instead
- Verse 18-19 — live peaceably, and let God deal with what others deserve
- Verse 20-21 — don’t let evil win; beat evil with good
Almost all of verses 3 to 21 deal with how we think about and treat others, both inside and outside the body of Christ.
Paul started with a command: don’t be conformed to the world, be transformed by renewing your mind. If the following 19 verses are about how to treat one another (friends and enemies), then it would stand to reason that Paul is strongly suggesting we cannot continue treating others the way the world does; we cannot think ourselves better, more important, deserving, and serve ourselves first (or only).
Challenge of Application
The renewal of the mind has everything to do with how we think about and treat others. Change how you’re thinking, and you’ll change your actions. Think straight; walk straight. Transformation of your life is the product of your thinking being renewed, moving away from the world’s influence of the priority of self, and moving toward loving others first.
At this point, the applications should be apparent and perhaps overwhelming. With Romans 12 in mind, the question is not how can we apply this to our lives, but are we going to do what Paul says?
Stop thinking of yourself so highly. We all have different roles to play in the body. We are all a part of Christ, and one another. Use your gifts for others. Treat your enemies well. Be empathetic, inclusive, and humble. Stop retaliating against evil. Live peaceably with others. Beat evil to a PULP!!…by doing good.
In summary, renewal starts when you start thinking and putting what’s best for others first, and you second. Doing life that way, thinking that way, transforms us.