“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau
In theory, we admire non-conformists, the ones who move to the beat of their own drummer. But in reality, we usually think they’re strange. They may be the kids with blue hair and tattooes all over their bodies. Or they’re the people who move to a cabin in the woods and turn their backs on televisions, and computers. Perhaps they’re the ones who protest against whatever the government happens to be doing at any given moment. I suspect those are the kinds of images that come to mind when we think of non-conformists.
In our culture, where Christianity is the dominant religion, not many people would consider Christians to be non-conformists. Just the opposite. Being a Christian means being a part of the status quo. This is disturbing because if Christians truly did follow in the way of Jesus, they would be so far outside the norm of behavior in our culture that they would be considered radicals.
When Christians take the teachings of Jesus seriously, they turn their backs on competition and the need to prove that there are winners and losers in this world. They practice non-violence, returning acts of love for acts of hate. They offer mercy and forgiveness instead of punishment and vengeance. They freely give other people, not what they deserve, but what they need. They lobby for the poor and those who have no one to speak on their behalf when important decisions are made in our government. They value relationships above material wealth. They engage in genuine dialogue and work toward understanding with those who don’t see things their way. They speak out against statements of bigotry, even the jokes they hear their friends tell that demean other people. They are concerned about what will benefit the community rather than “what’s in it for me.”
Many people like to refer to our country as a “Christian nation” when nothing could be further from the truth. Not if being a Christian means following Christ.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
What keeps us from being transformed into the people God would have us be? For me, it’s fear, plain and simple. Fear of being ostracized by my friends. Fear of not having enough. Fear of missing out on what I think I deserve. Fear of being taken advantange of if I’m too darn nice. The list could go on and on. Perhaps the first step toward allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our minds so we can discern what is his will is honestly facing our fear-driven need to conform to the ways of the world around us.
The opposite of fear, is trust. We overcome our fear by entrusting ourselves to God. Offering all that we are to him, we become new people. No longer conformed to the ways of the world, we are transformed.
A few verses later in Romans, Paul talks about the marks of a true Christian. It’s a good list. Read it over and think about what a radical way of being it describes. If ever there were a description of a non-conforming way of life, this is it.
"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God….No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)
Now that's what it means to move to the beat of a different drummer.