Feb 3, 2012

The Lure of Conformity

I always feel this need to conform to expectations around me. I think all of us do.  Let me illustrate.  The other day I came across a fellow pastor in my city.  He's a new guy in the area and he had that look of a pastor: dress pants, shined shoes, pressed blue shirt, yellow tie, distinguished glasses, and closely cropped hair.  Me? I had on blue jeans, polo shirt, tennis shoes, and a three-day growth of stubble on my face.  He looked like a pastor.  I looked like one of those guys who sits around playing video games and eating oreos. I began to think to myself, "You need to do a better job looking like a pastor when you go out."  There is a group of pastors that meet on Monday in my town and when I go to their meetings I usually put on khakis and a golf shirt or something business casual.  When I went to the Dominican I brought all athletic pants and Under Armor shirts because I knew all the guys were baseball guys and coaches.  I wanted to look the part even if I wasn't the part.  When I go to a gospel conference in April, everyone will be dressed in the standard YRR attire (except for Al Mohler who will still be sporting the suit and tie seminary president look). 

The lure of conformity is a powerful thing.  It doesn't go away when we graduate from high school.  Peer pressure isn't just something teenagers face.  We all face it everyday.  There's pressure to conform to the fashion trends of our tribe.  There's the pressure to conform to the large-scale SUV when you have two kids and live in suburbia.  There's pressure to preach like Andy Stanley, have music like Louie Giglio and Passion, and have a church big enough to transport people in golf carts across the parking lot.  There's pressure to get your son or daughter lessons so he or she can be as good or better than all the other kids at baseball or soccer.  There's pressure to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and every other social site to be relevant. 

Even those who say they are non-conformists have their pressures to conform.  Ever seen a skinhead with long blonde locks?  If you want to be a "non-conformist" you need to have multiple piercings, a long goatee, like wearing black, and have an angry demeanor most of the time.

The issue really isn't whether it's wrong to feel the pressure to conform, but what you are being conformed too.  The things we conform to can often times reveal to us what our functional idols really are.  My need to dress more like a pastor can possibly be signaling a need to be validated by external measurements rather than spiritual ones.  My desire for new golf clubs might be a sign that I want people to be impressed with the "Callaway" on my 9-iron. (However, I really think it's because my current clubs stink.)  When my need to conform is driven by other people's expectations or acceptance rather than my personal convictions, it will usually lead me down the path of idolatry and be less fulfilling. 

The real question is "Why do I feel so strongly the pull to conform to those around me, but don't always feel the need to conform to Christ-likeness as strong?"  It's not my desire to conform that bothers me but the things I desire to conform to and my struggle to conform to Christ-likeness.  The Bible says I am "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son."  It will happen eventually.  That's the plan of God for me.  The word also says "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance."  It's my choice what I conform to.  When I allow myself to be conformed to the pattern of this world, I show my ignorance of the gospel and all the things that God has done for me already in Christ.  I think that word "ignorant" best describes much of the conformity I see in my life and in the lives of those around me.  That's what I think bothers me the most.

Anyway, let's all conform (which is a statement asking you to conform) to the things that really matter in this world or the next.  And let's pay careful attention to the lure of conformity and ask ourselves why we feel so drawn to what we are.

Now I got to go press my slacks.  I have a pastor's meeting to go to...