Romans 12: 1-2 | Recovering God’s Story

“Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.” – Morrie[1]

We live in a lonely world in spite of the fact that recent communication technology boasts that loved ones can now be reached with a few clicks of a mouse or dial of a phone. The sad truth remains that it seems implausible that the number of solitary deaths have been on the rise in countries like the UK and Japan in recent years. Alienation, dubbed the “great emotional sickness of our era” by Italian filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni, remains a disease that even email, cell phones and online networking has been powerless to remedy[2].

It seems that in a world that boasts of its connectivity by means of technology it is still a sad truth that people are still lonely and at times die of their loneliness. Which brings onto mind that old saying: “no man is an island.”

These days, some experts are even suggesting that our social bonds may be breaking down not in spite of these new technologies, but because of it[3]. Indeed in this age of technology we find alongside mainstream cultural entities, there have developed a vast array of demassified[4] niches. Facebook contains thousands (if not millions) of groups and pages dedicated to foster communities built upon special interest on things that are supposed to be happening in the ‘real world’.

And yet…today there seems to be an abundant need for something ‘real’.

The media among others try to fill this with so many things and out of this demand came the advent of this trend called: ‘reality television’ —television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors.

The Survivor counts as one of the shows that paved the way for reality television in the show, contestants are isolated in the wilderness and compete for cash and other prizes. The show uses a system of progressive elimination, allowing the contestants to vote off other tribe members until only one final contestant remains and wins the title of “Sole Survivor” giving me the impression that life is but a social Darwinist experiment.

The Survivor series has appeared in many other incarnations, perhaps culminating in the latest version featuring Donald Trump offering his final and most ruthless contestant a dream job in one of his companies and gleefully telling the others, “You’re fired!” Is “surviving” to win the million dollars or work for the ultimate capitalist, Donanld Trump, to be the bottom line of our society?[5]

Reflecting on this in light of Paul’s all too familiar statement in Romans 12:1-2 I tend to concur with the theologian Robert Webber as he observes that: we live in a world where there are many stories—many ways that people interpret and therefore see the world[6].

For us Christians I tend to see it now that we have deviated only into interpreting reality merely in terms of our individual self and our personal relationship with God. It seems that we contemporary Christians have altogether we stopped looking at the Gospel from the vantage point of history and reality as the arena upon which the story of God unfolds.

The Christian convictions of Creation, Incarnation, death, Resurrection, and the return of Christ to establish a new heaven and new earth where Jesus is Lord over all creation as the story of the world was neglected. In place of the whole story we concentrated on this piece or that piece of the story. So the story of God as the interpretation of the world from its beginning to its ending simply fell into disuse.

Instead of focusing on God and God’s story, we followed the emphasis of the narcissistic culture and became interested in self. This concern for self was translated into the Christian faith, and into worship and preaching in particular[7].

Romans 12:2 reads: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (NIV)” perhaps this is a call for us to again recover our narrative Christian identities to that of the Biblical story where faith now is defined not merely in terms of belief, adherence and loyalty to theological formulations but rather as a lived context of an overarching reality that is the reality of the Triune God, who in Christ summons us into His fellowship and through the Spirit lives in us to bear witness to Himself in a loving community that accentuates God’s values here on earth thus posting a giant question mark to the status quo of complacency, deficient authenticity and trendsetting capitalist/consumer culture that penetrates even the church –thus the renewing of our minds implies that we are to become agents of an alternative consciousness –a counter-culture!

While the second part of the verse speaks about “God’s will—His good, pleasing and perfect will “(NIV). It must be noted that in as far as God’s will is concerned the Christian community is to bear with it in its two expressions that is God’s sovereign Will (the cosmic scope of God’s will for Creation) and commanded Will (revealed Will for his people i.e. the Law) which should be anchored in the Gospel that is the good news that God the creator has a plan for his universe. That plan has been revealed in Jesus Christ, whose incarnation, death, resurrection, and coming again constitute not only God’s story, but in reality, the story of the world[8].

For my part I often feel that Christianity as far as my experience goes have each time seem to be influenced by an etherea of excitement and experience –a product of circumstances, and a cycle of the many churches that I’ve been acquainted with that are on the constant look out for what’s ‘hip’ and ‘’relevant’ in the market place. I don’t mean to be over-critical but reflecting of that in light of Romans 12 gives me the impression that many Christians have lost sight of the moving reality and began to hang on to its lifeless shadow, they have substituted the dead form to the living Christ[9].

A few months ago, I find myself in a heated discussion with my older brother who is a youth minister in our local church and we were talking about James Choung’s 4 Circles presentation of the Gospel[10] where Choung which seeks to present a more holistic faith that puts emphasis on the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed in Luke 4. It was during this discussion that my brother asked what is the value of such a tool as it (in his opinion) seems to undermine the need for a personal relationship with Jesus. I told him that the difference lies in the tool’s focus on introducing a Christian worldview, to which he asks if it is important. In my mind I think that is important because a person’s worldview  determines how he or she will interpret the world and in this day and age the world has been interpreted by so many religions, ideologies and a whole lot of ‘isms’ apart from the vantage point of God who has been actively at work in history, forming a new meta-narrative to which we believers and those whom we witness to will be able to find our place in the over all scheme of things.

Perhaps Romans 12 and its focus of renewing our minds challenges us to orient ourselves again to this grand narrative of God’s work in human history that is stated in the biblical narrative that: God has rescued the world from the inside. He became one of us in the Incarnation. He died for us as our sacrifice, saving us from sin. In his resurrection, he destroyed death and began a new creation. He is Lord over all creation, and at the end of history he will destroy the presence of evil in this world and reign forever in the new heavens and the new earth[11].

As we are all living in a world that is disintegrating, and we Christians can’t narrate the world with a privatistic, narcissistic religion. So we Christians must once again become united, not in whining about our pain and brokenness, but in a hope for the future because we are recovering God’s story.

Perhaps to be renewed is to repent and to repent is to puts things into perspective and that is on the perspective of God’s story.


[1] Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays With Morrie (Portland: Doubleday, 1997) p. 35

[2] Uechi , Jenny Loneliness and Technology from (Adbusters #69, Jan-Feb 2007)

[3] Ibid

[4] Derived from the term demassification (coined by Alvin Toffler) which means: to  break  (something  standardized  or  homogeneous)  into  elements  that  appeal  to  individual  tastes  or  special  interests:  to  demassify  the  magazine  industry  into  special-interest  periodicals.

[5] Wallis, Jim God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It ( New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005) p.339

[6] Webber, Robert Together We Worship: Recovering God’s Story (Addison: ABS, 2006) p. 16

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Playfair, Samuel. Rappings (Grand Rapids: Tyndale 1971). P.43

[10] James Choung’s 4 circles is  adapted his book: True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In.

For more information visit: The Big Story, Part 1 [http://www.jameschoung.net/2007/09/17/the-big-story/] and From Four Laws to Four Circles [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/11.31.html]

[11] Op cit

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