Conformity. One evening recently our family was sitting in the living room watching TV, and we came across a show called Brain Games. This show is all about human behavior and the influence of the brain on that behavior. The producers conduct experiments involving human behavior and then explain the scientific reasons for the results. This particular episode happened to be about conformity. The experiment began with a few planted actors in a waiting room and an unexpecting patient. Every few minutes a tone would sound and the actors would stand up each time they heard it. Soon, the “normal” patient was standing at the tone, too. Before long, all of the actors had been called back for their appointments leaving only the “normal” patient who continued to stand upon hearing the tone. As new unsuspecting patients joined her, they, too began to stand at the tone. Soon, a new “generation” of patients were standing each time the tone was heard. The scientists explained the brain’s base desire to fit in, to conform to those around us. Though each new patient saw no purpose in standing at the tone, they ended up joining in.
In Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel receives a vision from the Lord of his glory departing from the temple, representing the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. He tells Ezekiel that the people will be punished so that they know he is Lord and accuses them of conforming to the standards of nations around them. Could the Lord accuse us of the same things today? Apparently our brains are hard-wired to conform; therefore, it takes effort to live in the world without conforming to it. Several times in this chapter God explains that he will punish the city and people so that they will know he is Lord. God must go to extremes to get the attention of the people to make them recognize that they have conformed to the world and lost their faith in him. As I read, I thought, “what will it take for these people to recognize their wicked ways?” When I look at our society, I could ask the same thing. We live in a double-standard world. On one hand, differences are encouraged (multiculturalism, free-thought, uniqueness, freedom of speech, etc.), yet the Christian who is different by not accepting the ways of the world is ridiculed. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we find ourselves doing what everyone else is, accepting behaviors contrary to God’s commands, and shrinking back when we know something is wrong instead of opposing it, we are conforming to the pattern of this world. Instead we want to be transformed by the Lord’s love and grace. Notice that even scripture mentions the brain, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” When we give our whole lives to the Lord, we will see his will and be directed by it. Our brains will have a new focus and base desire: to live for Christ. No longer will we mindlessly find ourselves standing at the tone, but instead, with God in control of our thoughts, we will think and act for him. As Christians, we must resist conformity with God’s help and live outside the pattern of this world.
Lord, from the moment we are toddlers in preschool, we have a desire to “fit in” and be like those around us. Father, I ask you to give me a different desire: to fit in to your arms and be more like you. Lord, control my thoughts and as a result my actions; make me more like you everyday so that I can be transformed and live in your good, pleasing, and perfect will.