If you’ve grown up in the church at all, chances are high you’ve heard it said, “Do not conform to this world; instead, strive to be counterculture. But what does that mean?” Especially if the culture you are inundated in is the Westernized church.
Let’s break this down, because what Scripture says is not what not to do but rather what to do. We love to focus on the negative in any given Scripture, but the absence of something is not instruction. Telling us to be counterculture isn’t effective. Isn’t that what most of us who have left the church have actually done? We listened and we broke free of a culture that felt stifling, but we missed the rest of the message.
What does it mean to live a life surrendered to God?
Romans 12:1-2 is where the idea of being counterculture comes from. So let’s look closer at these verses in the Message translation.
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.
Whatever culture you are in, whatever tribe, whatever community … hold it up in prayer and examine it against God’s Word. Yes, that means the church too. Do not blindly follow leaders (religious, political, or any in between). Instead, test the culture you are in and do not let it drag you down to its level.
God brings the best out of you
None of us are perfect, but when you commit to living your life for God you become a beacon of light to those around you. God calls us to love our neighbors. We do not bring goodness to God. God equips us to bring goodness to earth.
Take your everyday life and actively look for the opportunity to love your neighbor. Don’t hesitate when it arises. Respond immediately. Our culture, both in the church and in America, is self-centered. Over and over again our culture says that power is more important than kindness, that being morally superior is nobler than love. But Jesus flipped all of that around. He spoke up for the oppressed, rebuked the Pharisees for their piety to the law and commanded us to love one another. Show others that a God-centered life is one that sees the imago dei (image of God) in every human being.
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