Do not conform to the pattern of this world…

I’ve been thinking about patterns lately. How easy it is to fall into rhythms, habits, mental ruts, ideological stagnation. Patterns of living too small, too tight, too cold. Patterns of living too loud, too dispersed, too dissipated. We easily fall into emotional patterns that become so ingrained we forget that often what our emotions tell us about ourselves and about God just isn’t true. Truth is found in God’s eyes as we look at him, and no pattern—mental or emotional or behavioral—can match what we see in God’s love for us.

Lent is about getting out of some patterns that have us trapped in being smaller than God has made us to be. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

Other translations of this verse are:
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold. Do not fashion yourselves after this world.

Paul continues, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”


Paul didn’t say: Be transformed by improving your behavior. Be transformed by switching your desires to better things. Be transformed through super Lenten resolutions. Be transformed by giving up chocolate.


Paul said: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So what does Paul mean by his use of “mind”? The Greek word used by Paul is noûs.

Here is Thayer’s definition for noûs:

  1. the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining
    1. the intellectual faculty, the understanding
    2. reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil
    3. the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially
  2. a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires

The Apostle Paul wasn’t thinking about our everyday patterns of thinking. By his use of noûs he was considering the intellect, the higher faculties of our soul: perceiving and understanding, as well as faculties that have more to do with our will: judging, determining, recognizing goodness and hating evil.

Lent is a perfect time to look at the patterns we’ve fallen into in our lives. Are we being molded by the fashion, enticements, pleasures, of the world around us? By what we see in the media? By our friends? Our fears?

Now is the time to sharpen our capacity for spiritual truth, to strengthen our habit of perceiving divine things, to call forth the will to recognize and choose the good and to despise and reject what is evil.

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