Adapt But Not Conform

Stocking cap? Check.
Winter coat? Check.
Short pants? Check.

Short pants? Shoveling snow in our friend’s driveway, I mentally reviewed my wardrobe. Somehow short pants did not seem to fit the context. Apparently, I’m becoming a Michigander, I mused. And in less than two months!

Visa delays have us in Michigan longer than anticipated, but the setback has provided unexpected ministry opportunities. And shoveling snow in short pants has spawned a devotional thought.

Missionary trainers and various mission conferences over the years have emphasized the three essential qualities of a missionary, “Adaptability, adaptability and adaptability.” Strange climate, strange language, strange food and strange toilets require some adjustments. The vagaries of mission life demand flexibility. Adaptability is not only good; it is necessary. Conformity, on the other hand, is neither.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world.” As ambassadors of Christ, we must maintain a heavenly distinctiveness. In adapting to a new culture and location, we must ensure that we do not over-adapt.

Self-reflection is healthy. Periodically taking stock and asking oneself, how is it with my soul? safeguards against spiritual drift with its eventual shipwreck of faith. And so I ask myself, Have I become so acclimatized and acculturated to the world that I have lost my longing for heaven? Am I reflecting Christ or simply mirroring the culture around me?

We will no longer need to shovel snow when we get to Thailand. Instead, we will be sweeping dust and sand. We will leave behind the shivering cold and embrace the sweltering heat. But along with my short pants, something else will remain—Christ’s call for us to be in and not of the world.

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