I could easily spend a whole week just marinating on verse 2. Wow! I’ll try to rush through it in a mere three days, though. Here’s the first third, what I’m calling “12:2a.”
12:2a Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed…
conformed.. I looked up this word in the NET Bible’s greek dictionary. The word is in the imperative mood, which makes it a command and in the present tense, which I found interesting because the NIV says “don’t be conformed any longer“. There is no reason for adding those last two words. The other thing that was interesting is that this word is not in the active voice–it could be either the passive voice or the middle voice. Having forgotten my college Greek lessons, I had to research the middle voice. I relearned that it’s something between active and passive. So it’s not really about us going around and conforming ourselves to the world. The middle voice would tell us that the world plays an active part, but we may have somewhat of a role in it as well. I think the phrase that best captures the idea is: “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” There’s responsibilty on both us and the world.
this present world.. This is an interesting word because it literally is the word for eon–a measure of time–whereas I would have expected it to be about a physical world, such as a group of people or the globe itself. The NET Bible’s usage of “this present world” seems to capture the idea well. It seems Paul is talking about being conformed to the cultural realities associated with our current time in history. We are not to allow the current trends and social norms to mold us in any way.
be transformed. Imperative. Present tense. Passive. Here there’s no middle voice confusion. We have nothing to do with this transformation–it’s all from God. As Bob mentioned, it’s the word “metamorphasis,” which reminds us of tadpoles becoming frogs and catarpillars becoming butterflies. It’s to be part of the DNA God gives us.
So the big idea in 2:a seems to be this: we’re supposed to be altered–radical change is expected of Christ-followers. But let that change not come from the cultural forces of this day in which we live. Instead let it come from God Himself, who seeks to transform us from the inside out!