Tuesday, August 19, 2008

some bad advice

“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

A lot of people are quick to tell us how to live and what to value. And I’m not primarily referring to our philosophers and teachers and pastors, though they like to chime in too. It’s the world that has lessons to teach us. Just pay attention. We’re overwhelmed and disoriented, whether we realize it or not, by events and things and information. “Stuff” floods our mental and spiritual space. We are soaked in commercials, advertisements, political one-liners, “friendly” advice, sermons, and a million other things that tell us how to live and what to value.

In the past month, Sprite has told me to “obey my thirst.” Monster.com has told me that the meaning of life is “to make the sale.” Lexus has told me that “I am what I drive.” What have you been told?

The reason I ask is simple. Spiritual formation means that we do something. Grace may be opposed to earning. But grace is not opposed to effort. Grace thrives on effort. Grace even motivates our efforts. But our effort is required. And the reason effort is required on our part is because the vast majority of the info we receive – on how to live, and on what to value – is bad advice. We can’t always obey our thirst. The meaning of life is not to make the sale. And I really hope that I’m worth more than my raggedy gas-guzzler that I can’t afford to replace.

But these are the messages we absorb. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world.” “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Seriously? Assuming that we’re formed in a world that is at best “misguided,” what is one to do?

Option A, we leave the world. Option A is a bad idea. Christians are called to be in the world – the salt and light of the world. Cults of any kind are a creepy copout.

Option B, we be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, we take responsibility for determining how to live and what to value. We’re all taught to live by someone or something. And what we value is always learned behavior. The question is who has taught us how to live and what to value? Of course, things are always a little bit messier than this. A lot of what we have learned is good. And a lot is bad. But that’s precisely why “the renewing of our mind” is part of Christian discipleship – something we must do daily.

How do we do this? Read my blog and allow me to tell you what to think. Just joshing. But seriously, be intentional and take responsibility. Because if we are not intentional, we will absorb the lies. I don’t know what “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” means for you. For me, it means attentively listening to Scripture. It means reading and praying and having conversations and asking questions. It does not mean rejecting the world. After all, the world is God’s good creation. But it does mean paying close attention to the information that we are soaked in and being courageous enough to ask, “Is this true?”

FOR TODAY: Pay attention and listen. You will be given advice, albeit subtly, on how to live and on what to value. Is it worth listening to?


KAM said...

I'm trying to make sense of the italic explosion in this post.

John Newton said...

isn't that something

Anonymous said...

So true my friend. I laughed for a good 30 seconds after reading the sentence "Cults of any kind are a creepy copout." peace, bro