Thursday, June 9, 2011

The power of conformity

This past Sunday I had the privilege of starting a new Bible study at our church. It is called "This is Your Brain on God." It is my goal, for each week, to examine psychology theory about humans through the lens of Law and Gospel.

The first lesson was on the power of conformity. We began with this vintage Candid Camera clip. It is a short and hilarious clip of Candid Camera people standing the wrong way in an elevator. In each clip the unsuspecting participant turns the wrong way, too. It is funny because we see ourselves in the clip. We know that we often follow the crowd, even if it is going in the wrong direction.

Well, God made us this way, so He must have done it for a reason. Of course, as sinners we always distort God's perfect plan.

A wise friend in the class pointed out that we have three ways to conform; to the world, to God's Will, or to our own idea of what is right.

Experiments done around 50 years ago by Solomon Asch help us to understand several things about conforming:

  1. If there are at least three people doing the same thing, we are highly likely to follow them.
  2. Some people actually convince themselves that they are wrong when they follow the crowd.
  3. Some people know the crowd is wrong but follow anyway because they don't want to "make waves."
  4. We are less likely to follow the crowd if we have at least one person who agrees with us.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 11-2 (ESV)

In this verse we see part of God's plan for creating us as conformers. We are expected to conform to the will of God. He gave us the ability to do this. However, we miserably fail at that expectation and instead conform to the world. This gets us into big trouble. We align ourselves with people who encourage us to deny our faith. We follow a group that points us away from God and toward sin.

In this verse we are expected to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are not to face the wrong way in an elevator, but to face the opposite direction of the world. Because of the sacrifice of God's Son, we become an acceptable sacrifice. Because of the work of the Spirit we are transformed toward what is good and acceptable and perfect. We face the right direction because He turns us toward Himself. We no longer suffer from the distortion of judgment or the fear of being different. In Christ we can give glory for the difference of being God's child.

Remember the last in the list of what we know about conforming: we are less likely to follow the crowd when we have at least one person facing the crowd with us. Fellowship with believers is a gift of God, also.

I encourage you to be in the Word; to attend church and participate in the sacraments. These are things that cause our faith to grow. I also encourage you to engage in fellowship with believers. Indulge in that particular need to conform! Stand with your believers in worship, study and service.

When that elevator door opens you will be ready to go and serve.

Abba, Father, Amen.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

You write so well. It's funny how I read this with a different 'filter' (trouble in my day) and had to keep bringing myself back to the true meaning.

I'll do my best to face the right way in the elevator of life. :)