During college, I spent a good chunk of a summer in Venezuela. The food was astounding, the people delightful, the weather and hospitality beautiful. Within the first day or two, however, I recognized that my views on time management weren’t shared by my new friends. If we planned to have lunch at noon, this meant anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. The same for meetings or travel: timeframes were approximations without rigid punctuality. I learned that my idea of “being on time” was far more culturally formed than I’d realized.
All of us are shaped by the cultural values that surround us, usually without us ever noticing. Paul calls this cultural force the “world” (Romans 12:2). Here, “world” doesn’t mean the physical universe, but rather refers to the ways of thinking pervading our existence. It refers to the unquestioned assumptions and guiding ideals handed to us simply because we live in a particular place and time.
Paul warns us to be vigilant to “not conform to the pattern of this world.” Instead, we must be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2). Rather than passively taking on the ways of thinking and believing that engulf us, we’re called to actively pursue God’s way of thinking and to learn how to understand His “good, pleasing and perfect will” (v. 2). May we learn to follow God rather than every other voice.