Christian Nonconformism

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think in this country, we tend to think of a nonconformist as a trouble maker. I think we, as a country, started out as nonconformists (after all, we started this country in rebellion) but now if you look at the trend of things, we tend to want everyone to conform. It has gotten so strong, that if a person stands up for something he or she believes in, they are shouted down as a bigot, trouble maker, or worse.

So this leads me to a question: can, or should, a Christian be a nonconformist? Maybe I will be tagged as a troublemaker or judgmental, but I would say that in today’s time, it is imperative that we be nonconformists. Don’t get me wrong, there is a wrong kind of non-conformism that tears down rather than builds up. But I’m not talking about that. There was a bishop of the Methodist Church in the US many years ago who once prayed at a deacon ordination, “O Lord, grant that these brethren may never want to be like other people.” I get what he was saying!

So, are you and I nonconformists? Do we even want to be one? My prayer is, “May God make us so!” Talking this way is strange to me. I’ve been pretty much of a “go with the flow” kind of guy for the most part. I do make exceptions to that when it comes to some things like basic Christian doctrines and a few other things. But for the most part, I tended to go along with things even when I disagreed with them, unless it was something I felt really strongly about.

But over the past two years or so, things have been changing. I didn’t ask them to change, something just changed in my heart. I’m no rebel by any means and I am not touting myself as a great nonconformist by any means. But I am beginning to see things that I have accepted in my life and role as a missionary worker that I am beginning believe we do them just because we do them. There have even been a couple of times where I have stood up to some things that I felt were just wrong and have somewhat paid a price for them. To be honest, part of the “price paying” was of my own doing because of the way I presented my case to those in charge. It was done in anger and frustration for which I have gone back and asked forgiveness for my attitude, but I made it clear that I could not back down on the stance I took. If anything, God has taught me to be more humble and loving through my “price paying.”

So, what does a Christian nonconformist look like? I have been studying in the book of Galatians and realize that Paul was the consummate nonconformist. Galatians chapter 1 and 2 is basically Paul’s defense to standing up to the “Judaizers” who were trying to bring the new Galatian Christians back under the Law. Paul would have no part of it. Two of my key verses that I would really like to live up to in my life are quotes from Paul. They are found in Acts 20:24 and Philippians 1:21. I suspect Paul was a lonely man with few friends. But he had received his calling from Jesus Christ and he would not back down on it. That is a nonconformist!

Some of my other favorite nonconformists are Caleb, who stood against all of Israel (along with Joshua) and was almost stoned to death for it. Then there was Joseph in the Old Testament. Most of us have read his story, seen all he went through and how God delivered him from his trials. Some more contemporary nonconformists that I have mentioned before are the thousands (or millions) of Christians suffering persecution around the world and standing strong for their faith. I read a statistic the other day that 75% of Christians are now living in a part of the world where they suffer persecution. I wish I could say my heart always hurts for our dear brothers and sisters. But while there are times it does, there are too many times in my life where I am the center of my thoughts. May God forgive and change me!

There are other contemporary Christian nonconformists who I would like to share but there stories are in a book and there are copyright rules that prohibit me from just copying them here. But allow me to briefly mention a couple of them to you. Most of them will be unfamiliar to you. They are just plain folk like you and me, but they have allowed God to rule in their lives against the flow of many around them. There was a doctor named Nathan who decided to work in Ethiopia. He served there many years until his daughter brought him home because of his age and ailing health. But after a short time, he was so miserable being away from the work that his daughter flew him back. He spent his final days in Ethiopia working with the people.

Then there is a young lady named Jamie. She went to Tanzania when she was 22 and was going to stay there until the small amount of money she had saved up gave out. Soon she came across a small baby whose mother was dying from AIDS. The baby’s mom was too weak to care for him and Jamie started to buy food and supplies for the baby. Just before she died, the baby’s mother came to Jamie and said she had heard she was taking care of her son. She said she had never known such love and wanted to be saved. She will now see her baby in heaven. Jamie also entertained thoughts of adopting the baby but she thought she was being foolish. But God worked it out and she was able to adopt him as a single lady and brought the child home to the states. She later got married and is now back in Tanzania with her family.

Finally, there is Rich Mullins. You probably know this name quite well. He was a Christian singer back in the 80s and 90s. But he was not just another Christian artist. His music was powerful and his public appearances were strange at times. He was not just about the music. He would spend much time witnessing and ministering to the audiences and ruffled a few feathers in the music industry with his strange way of doing things and speaking about his sins. It didn’t matter to Rich. Later he moved to a Navajo reservation and taught music. He could have been a big success in the music industry but the money he made from concerts went to his church. The church gave Rich a small salary to live on and gave the rest away. Rich died in 1997 is a tragic jeep accident. He wrote and sang a lot of songs that have been covered by many of the groups of today. My personal favorite is Ready for the Storm. 

So, time to close this. My point in writing this today is just to introduce you and me to the life of being a Christian nonconformist. They are not special people. But they are people who not only read their Bibles, but take to heart what it says and made it part of their lives. James encourages us: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22. One of the differences between a nonconformist and a conformist is that nonconformists are doers of the Word. May God take His Word and allow it to penetrate our sometimes hardened hearts. God bless you all.

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