Recent years have seen protesters swarm police stations, college campuses, community centers, and even the White House. Not only has there been a dramatic increase in the number of protests, but there has been a dramatic increase in the drama of those protests. Heavy emotional involvement has ensured that everybody has an opinion and is unwilling to waver from it and therefore is unwilling to consider the perceptions and roles of others. Regardless of whether to not a person agrees with these protests, regardless of whether or not they are logical, and regardless of whether or not the complaints are valid, there is one certainty in this modern protest mindset: what we see is a trend towards resistance.
For Christians, whether by the prompting of their own opinions or the persuasion of others, they also find themselves being drawn into these protests in some form or another. That involvement evokes questions at a number of levels for Christians trying to decide what their role should or should not be. Because each movement is different with varying themes, goals, and motivations, it is impossible to critique each one from a biblical perspective. However, there is something to be said about Christian involvement in the trend of resistance, particularly in resisting authorities. For that, we turn our attention to what Scripture says, and quite simply Scripture tells us we need to both reject conformity and accept conformity.
There is much to be concerned about in today’s culture and there are many things we may desire to see changed. However, this movement to resist all authority brings in the first biblical principles to be negotiated in our determination of involvement. Scripture is very high on authority telling believers they need to obey parents (Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 1:8; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20), obey church leaders (Hebrews 13:17) and obey governmental authorities (Romans 13:1-2). Unless there is something directly contradictory to the Lord’s directives that would cause disobedience to him, obedience to those he has placed into authority is a biblical concept. After all Peter writes, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
Furthermore, Paul writes that conformity to this world should be resisted (Romans 12:2). Why is it so important to resist conformity to the modern global culture that exists? Because despite being filled with wise people, scholars, and philosophers, however, those same people have been blinded by the Lord and therefore do not understand the things of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Paul even describes this world as one that is evil (Galatians 1:4) while John warns that it is dangerous (1 John 5:19). These warnings are serious and result in a great conclusion that Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 3:18: in order to be truly wise, we must become ignorant to the world around us.
These points dictate that caution is necessary for a believer’s life. While the world is busy jumping on board the latest fad to resist, we must be vigilant. Generally speaking, the Bible indicates that we must resist the trend of resistance avoiding conformity to it.
However, the lesson doesn’t end there because there is an area in which conformity is desired. While we are busy resisting conformity to the world, we can put it in its place conformity to Christ’s character. Earlier in Romans, Romans 8 to be exact, Paul indicates that the destination of a believer’s life is to be conformed into the image of Christ. In Romans 12:2, he gets more specific to indicate that through the renewing of the mind, one should conform to Christ in order to offer himself or herself as a sacrifice to the Lord (see also Romans 12:1).
However, Paul does not use the word conform when discussing the need to change into Christ’s image, but rather he says be transformed. In Romans 12:2, there are two major distinctions between the phrases ‘be conformed’ and ‘be transformed.’ First, conformity indicates an outward appearance, while transformation indicates a genuine change coming from within. Second, conformity is the result of the world’s work in a person while transformation is the work of God in a person. Therefore, the results of each are at odds with one another. While one achieves a desirable outcome the other achieves an undesirable outcome.
There are worthy causes out there. There are even some that are based on fundamental principles of Scripture that need to be defended. Therefore, there are circumstances that necessitate a Christian response and a Christian voice. However, by and large, the culture is embracing a movement that rejects authority and replaces it with self-government, thus protests are meant to achieve an end not only founded upon principles of selfishness, but also embraces rules of engagement motivated by those same set of principles. Therefore, we must exercise caution in what we engage in and how we engage in it and we can conclude that we must not embrace the current trend of resistance by resisting it.
Photo “Conformity” courtesy of user Richard Stebbing and Flickr.