Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Be not conformed, but transformed"

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

The gospel lesson we just heard is a short excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, which you can read in its entirety in Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7. This great sermon is very much an introduction and orientation to the kingdom of heaven, and to the lifestyle that is needed to enter into it. I think every person should read Sermon on the Mount at least once a year to be reminded of how we are supposed to live, according to the Master who created us.

If I were to try to summarize the sermon in one sentence, I think I would pick Romans 12:2 which says, “… be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God”. If you read the Sermon on the Mount carefully, you can see that it illustrates the sharp conflict between the values of this fallen world and those of the kingdom of heaven. This theme is repeated often throughout the message. And what’s more, it’s not too hard to see that the values that Christ identifies as being those of this world are the very ones that we tend to hold to. In other words, it is assumed in the Sermon on the Mount that we already have been conformed to this world, and it confronts us with the need to recognize this and to change.

This really should come as no surprise to any of us. We should understand that we are born as fallen and broken people into a fallen and broken world, and that the system of values we have inherited from the world is radically different from that of the kingdom of heaven. I would hope that each of us understands this, and has also the desire to pursue and undergo that transformation of which St. Paul speaks that can allow us to prove the good and perfect will of God through our very lives.

That might be my hope; it might be your hope as well. But experience indicates that this understanding doesn’t always exist in our hearts as completely as it should. These days more and more professing Christians seem content to have their understanding of life and their worldview shaped and defined by the culture around them rather than by the kingdom of God. Along with this, the moral, ethical, and lifestyle choices that many Christians make also seem to be guided by the world, rather than by any discernable religious tradition. In terms of how people think of themselves and others, what they value, and how they live, there seems an ever-shrinking difference between the believer and the nonbeliever.

There are many areas in which this can be seen, but I think there are two big ones. These also happen to be the two main things that our culture is absolutely obsessed with, and completely wrong about in terms of any proper understanding of them. These two things are sex and money.

There are some surprising parallels between the two. How a person conducts himself sexually and how he spends his money both tend to reveal the degree of understanding that person has concerning his own humanity, his sense of worth and value as a human being, and whether or not he even seeks to be a worshipper of God. People routinely misuse both of these gifts, failing to see them as coming from God and intended by Him to be used according to His will and to His glory.

The person who is sexually immoral has separated the gift of sex from the will and purpose of God, and leads a distorted life of blind rebellion. The person who is careless with his money, who spends it selfishly with no tithe-offering to God and no alms to the poor, is a person who has also separated the gift of earthly wealth from the God who gives it for a divine purpose, and is leading an equally blind and distorted life.

These are two matters in which we absolutely need to be guided by the wisdom of Church, and by not the culture of the world. And yet I fear that we might not turn to the Church as often as we should for this guidance. Today many people try to define for themselves what is and is not sex (Thank you, Bill Clinton), in order to act as their own moral guides the 21st century. And when it comes to money, most people tend to see their finances as an entirely private matter that the Church not dare intrude upon. Both of these views are wrong, and are in need of correction.

Honestly, is there any aspect of our lives that should not come under the governance of the kingdom of heaven, or in which we should not seek the wisdom of our spiritual fathers for guidance? Should we only submit to the Church on matters of doctrine, but make up our own minds about everything else? No; of course not. To break away from conformity with this world and to begin the process of transformation, we must carefully submit all aspects of our lives to God, and to the authorities that God has appointed in our lives. We must listen to the Church and our spiritual fathers, not only on matters of doctrine, but also on matters of morality, on tithing and financial stewardship, and on everything else that helps us to put the kingdom of God first in our lives.

To do this, we must find the humility to see that we already have been conformed to this world, likely far more that we ourselves even know. Once we come to this recognition, we will likely understand that we can never be transformed by our own wisdom, but only by replacing that wisdom with the wisdom of the Church, the Holy Scriptures, and our own spiritual fathers. Yes, we need a complete renewing of our very minds, just as St. Paul told us. This comes only through renouncing our own will, and seeking the will of God first in all things.

May God help us and guide us in this, to the glory of His Holy Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

6 Comments:

At 10/28/2013 11:08 PM , Anonymous Clover said...

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At 7/30/2014 6:38 PM , Blogger Leslie Lim said...

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At 12/11/2014 5:08 PM , Blogger joy said...

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At 7/20/2015 6:47 PM , Blogger sarah lee said...

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