“And do not be conformed to this world…”

For the grammarians among us, this verb–do not be conformed–is a present passive imperative. Imperative means it’s a commandment: You must see to it. Passive means you’re not the one who does it, but it’s something done to you. So the commandment is “Don’t let this be done to you.” Finally, it’s in the present tense, which indicates an ongoing problem: Keep on not letting this be done to you. In other words, if you stop paying attention, this conforming will happen.

The word itself means to adopt some particular scheme of things, some perspective and its corresponding way of life. So the commandment is this: “Be diligent to resist the world’s perspective and way of life.” The world is always going to press you, and you must always refuse. If you stop refusing, you will find yourself thinking and acting like the world around you. I’m sure you’ve noticed this.

It’s interesting that the Greek text here doesn’t use the usual word for world. The usual word is cosmos, which usually refers to the way we human beings arrange our society. Cosmos includes our cultures, politics, institutions, and such—the stuff sociologists would study. But instead of cosmos, the word here is eon, which could also be translated the times, or this age. It’s a way of saying current ways of thinking and acting. In other words, it’s a euphemism for contemporary worldviews, and their corresponding values, ethics, and behaviors.

So the commandment is this: Always be attentive and diligent not to buy whatever scheme of things the world is selling. The world never sells the Gospel or the concept of radical availability to God, so whatever the world is selling is going to distract you from your commitment. Remember, don’t fall for the foolish schemes of this age.

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