We have just had our midterm election in the United States. This moment reminds me of Paul’s challenge to Christians living in the world’s superpower: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). J.B. Phillips’ old translation is striking: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.”
Isn’t this the temptation facing Christians around the world? If we don’t rebelliously “renew our minds,” we easily get “squeezed” into the mold of some camp that promises us security and power. But in the process, we make a mockery of Christ’s cruciform lordship and his command to love our neighbors – especially our poor and oppressed neighbors – as ourselves. Before long, our minds conform, and our Christianity and culture become virtually indistinguishable. Values completely foreign to the New Testament – racial superiority, personal privilege, political power – claim our passionate allegiance.
To resist this squeezing and renew my own mind, I have written a short prayer that I want to share with you. I hope it will be helpful for your own pursuit of a more faithful, counter-cultural life in these troubling times:
Help me to be more conservative. Help me to cherish traditions from the past that are worth preserving, and deliver me from forgetfulness and the thoughtless embrace of what is popular. Make me a person of character and courage, deep as the ages.
Help me to be more liberal. Help me to celebrate contemporary insights that enrich human life, and deliver me from close-mindedness and the prideful perpetuation of what devalues others. Make me a person of generosity and justice, wide as the world.
In all things, help me to resist and confound the false dichotomies and entrenched tribalisms of my society that would miniaturize my humanity. Make me a more complex and coherent person like Jesus who loves the dead and the living, the similar and strange. Teach me to love my neighbors as myself, especially my excluded and oppressed neighbors.