“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (Romans 12:2, The Message).”
A mallard was flying northward with his buddies across Texas during the springtime. En route, he happened to land in a barnyard, where he quickly made friends with the tame ducks that lived there. The wild duck enjoyed the corn and fresh water. He decided to stay for an hour, then for a day, then for a week, and finally, for a month.
At the end of that time, he contemplated flying to join his friends headed north, but he had begun to enjoy the safety of the barnyard, and the tame ducks had made him feel so welcome. So he stayed for the summer.
One autumn day, when his wild friends were flying south, he heard their quacking. It stirred him with delight, and he enthusiastically flapped his wings and rose into the air to join them. Much to his dismay, he found that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. As he waddled back to the safety of the barnyard, he muttered to himself, “I’m satisfied here, I have plenty of food, and the area is good. Why should I leave?” So, he spent the winter on the farm.
In the spring, when the wild ducks flew overhead again, he felt a strange stirring within his breast, but he did not even try to fly up to meet them. When they returned in the fall, they again invited him to rejoin them, but this time, the duck did not even notice them. There was no stirring within his breast. He simply kept on eating corn which made him fat.
That is a parable (changed for my Texas friends) from Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian and philosopher. It illustrates to me exactly what Paul is telling the Roman church.
This call to non-conformity is nothing new. God told Moses, “You must not do as they do…do not follow their practices (Lev. 18:3).” And Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not be like them (Matt. 6:8).” He’s contrasting two value systems: the world’s and God’s.
The challenge, illustrated by our friend the duck, is that we live in the midst of the barnyard. We forget (or never knew) that we were created to be free and wild. So, little by little, we conform to the world around us…telling ourselves, “It isn’t that bad.”
But you were made in God’s image…you were created for more. I think, deep down, you know this. Get out of the barnyard!