Be Different. That Doesn’t Mean Tattoos. It Means Jesus.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on June 27, 2019

Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agree. I’m tempted to watch if the stars start to fall.

The Supreme Court ruled that a clothing company whose name sounds like an obscenity can trademark its clothes. The Supremes’ argument has to do with free speech. But the other issue — the more important issue — is the nature of our culture. Especially the counterculture. Crude language has become so common it’s normal.

And that’s the irony: When being countercultural becomes ordinary, its no longer countercultural. It’s so ordinary you can trademark it.

If You Want to be Countercultural

That’s why one of the things I tell my students is that if you want to be countercultural, follow Jesus.

For more on this subject, see Tom Gilson’s We Know the Truth and Lessons We Learn From Spiritual Leaders.

Being really different is hard. Trends and fads change all the time. Shirts that announce four-letter curses, body piercings, arm-length tattoos, up-to-date slang, or YouTube “vines,” are anything but unique. Trying to capture a certain look or style of speech, you’re only showing what a conformist you are.

Not to your dad or your mom or your childhood pastor. But you’re still putting on a uniform.

Being Conformed

Do you want to different? Really different? Follow Christ. ”Don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” as Paul writes to the church in Rome (Romans 12:2).

In Greek, the word the apostle uses for “conform” is the basis of our word “systemize.” It means to be conform oneself to a pattern or mold, to accommodate yourself to someone or something else.

Christians are often accused of conforming to “the world,” the world’s pattern or mold. We adopt the system of beliefs and practices that shakes its fist at God and offers sorry, if glittering, substitutes for Him. Sometimes we do.

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Our loving Creator made us to be in relationship with others of His image-bearers. The longing for identifying with a community and of sharing in its habits and beliefs is strong. This longing can easily go wrong.

Too many Christ-followers divorce. Too many of us worship material comfort and too readily compromise our morals. We’re too often more concerned with what people think than what God commands. We hesitate to share the gospel, we fall into gossip and bitterness, we forget to care for the least of these.

On Being Truly Different

This is where the second part of Paul’s challenge comes in. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Greek word “transform” means pretty much what the English one does, only with a twist. “Form” in The Greek word form (morphe) means a thing’s very essence.

To have our minds transformed is to experience a “metamorphosis.” That that we — rather, God working in us — change the whole way we view things. We change our values, beliefs, priorities, and commitments. We begin to see all things as the Lord Jesus does. All things become new.

A transformed and renewed mind means that we will resist conformity to the intense pressure of homosexual activism. God loves us too much to want us to approve the giving of our bodies to what His word calls “dishonorable passions” (Romans 1:26). We must love those who do so enough to graciously but firmly call on them to a higher, nobler life in Christ. And be prepared to be called cruel and even vile names as we do.

This is true of the wide range of sexual issues plaguing our society. Sex before marriage. Adultery. Promiscuity. Abortion.

Those are the easy examples for most of us. Paul’s instruction hits all of us just as hard. It’s true of popular entertainments.  We can be in church on Sunday morning and on Sunday evening watching a debauched hit movie or TV show, because everyone’s talking about it. And because we don’t mind a little violence and sex. And saying “no” to watching it would make us seem weird.

So what? Is that what a God-transformed mind does? Don’t be conformed to the world. Find your identity in Christ and with His faithful people. Do something that points you to the things of God. Watch a movie about virtuous people. Read a great book. Play with your children. Memorize Scripture. Take a walk with your spouse.

A Really Different Purpose

That’s true non-conformity. To commit oneself to exalting the Lord Jesus Christ first and always runs hard against the grain of human nature and the spirit of our time. But if you want to realize your true uniqueness, that’s the place to start.

The Supreme Court says wearing a shirt with a foul-sounding name is OK. But it’s not really radical. Too many people do it. It’s no more radical or counter-cultural than liking ice cream. If you really want to be “rad,” follow Jesus.


Rob Schwarzwalder is a senior contributor at The Stream and a senior lecturer at Regent University.

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