“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…”
If I want to take the measure of the temperature in our house I look at the thermometer. If the temperature is not to my liking I am not obligated to live with it. I have the option of adjusting the thermostat. If the temperature becomes unbearable, making the adjustment becomes a necessity.
Jesus had some specific words for those in whom faith is a living reality. He called them ‘salt’ and ‘light’. When these things are present, the temperature of life is adjusted to the atmospherics of the kingdom. Or, to use Paul’s words, the Christian is not a conformer but a transformer.
At the same time it is important to point out that the New Testament authors do not put out a call for deliberate social transformation. The New Testament is no Communist Manifesto. St. Paul and the others were not offering a program designed to turn Christians into a legion of social workers. As often as not the Christian life transforms precisely because it’s intent is not to transform. Why? Because Christians are called to continually adjust life to the atmospherics of the kingdom. If I am a police officer and join a corrupt police department, my duty as a Christian is not to conform to the corruption. If I am in business and am tempted or even ordered to perform in a dishonest fashion, my Christian duty is not to conform to the dishonesty. I am under no obligation to get along with anyone who invites me to conform in this way.
Simply reflecting the status quo in life is not the way of the Christian. Our lives are tempered not by the latest expedient but by the Word of God as we hear the Law and the Gospel and receive the sacraments, as Christ Jesus conforms us to Himself. The culture offers this formula: ‘Go along in order to get along’. Our faith reminds us, ‘You are not a thermometer. You are a thermostat’.