The Values of the Age
And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ Romans 12:2
Almost every Bible that translates this verse from Romans reads, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Even the estimable NASB (New American Standard Bible), the most trustworthy for transparent translation, does it; but the Bible does not say “world”. It says, “Do not be conformed to this age.” Both versions are worth spending a lot of time thinking and praying about; I suppose the translators possibly worry that people will read “age” and think, well, Paul is only talking about the societal values of the first century A.D.
Most people understand this to mean we should be motivated by goals of the Spirit, rather than hungers of the flesh, which is a profound truth that the verse does support. But there is another angle. This passage can be read to mean, more specifically, “Do not take your values from whatever society and time period you happen to inhabit.”
There is one absolute in the values of secular society, and that is, they are going to change constantly. Very very few people manage to grasp the degree to which their opinions, which they think are eternal and absolute, are influenced by the accident of where and when they were born, and who their parents were. Do you really think that your opinions about people of other races would be exactly the same, if you were a 40-year-old farmer living in Alabama in 1955? Or in 1855? I guarantee they would not.
At no time and in no place have the values of secular society reflected the values of God. Paul is telling us that we must change, no matter when we live; we must put aside all of the ever-fluctuating mores of society and see into the heart of eternal truth.
Lord, let me learn to read your Word without preconception, and to conform myself to your will. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer