“Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
The world says we have to go with the flow and just be like everybody else. We should be chasing fame and fortune. The more ‘stuff’ we have the happier we’ll be. If we just wear the right brands and drink the right drinks we’ll be cool, popular, irresistible, etc… The world says the three most important things are me, myself and I. The world says settle for an easy life, don’t put in extra effort if you can avoid it. Enjoy it without thinking of the consequences. Everyone is expected to just fall into line and go along with this.
But Paul tells it differently. He says that because we are living for Jesus we should no longer be copying the ways of the world. No longer can we just drift along the way the world is going, as slowly but surely it is headed to Hell. We need to go against the flow.
One afternoon in the summer I went tubing with a couple of friends, snake fearing Cassie and crazy Jamaican Jenika. We were in these rubber rings going down rapids in a river at Ausable Chasm, near Plattsburg, New York. It was incredible fun. But then we got towards the end, and there was a section where the current pulled you in to a cove at the side of the river, and then did a good job of keeping you there. In fact, it did a pretty outstanding job at keeping us there – every time we tried to get out it would just pull us back in and we were stuck there for ages, trying desperately to break free.
Eventually I managed to get out, and straight away another current pulled me a couple of hundred meters downstream. Cassie and Jenika were still stuck back in the cove, but I figured if I had been able to get out they would manage before long too. So I waited and watched as they went round and round in circles. I even took a few pictures of them as they struggled (they didn’t appreciate that…). I should probably add at this point that Jenika was (and still is) terrified of water, and it had required considerable persuasion by myself and Cassie to get her to join us in the tubing.
Eventually it became apparent that they weren’t likely to make it out any time soon, so I decided I would head back to play the hero and try and help them. Which was when I learnt how hard it can be to go against the flow.
When you let the current carry you along it is easy. You don’t need to put in much effort. It just happens. When we are conformed to the ways of the world it is easy. We fit in. We get carried along with no real thought as to where we are going. And then we find ourselves going round and round in a circle of sin and despair that we can’t break free from.
But when we resolve to follow Paul’s words and no longer copy the behaviours of the world, that is when it gets hard. That is when we start facing constant resistance. That is when people suddenly aren’t so accepting of us. And that is when we end up, not where the tide carries us, but where God wants us.
As I struggled to propel my tube upstream against the current I realised going against the flow requires a lot of effort. It requires determination. It needs focus. One brief slip and suddenly the current has you again and is pulling you where you don’t want to go. It requires you have help and support (I had to use rocks at the side of the river to help pull myself back upstream). But going against the flow is rewarding. Extremely rewarding. Eventually I made it back to the cove (typically just as Cassie and Jenika made it out themselves), and the satisfaction I got from having made it against the tide was great.
As we strive towards spiritual maturity we don’t have time to get pulled off course by the current of the world. Pray that God would give you the strength, determination, focus and the support from Christian friends so that you will not copy the behaviours of the world, but that you will be able to go against the flow.