A few years when my daughters were in their mid-teens they kept telling me that they were going to have a tattoo just as soon as they were 18. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against tattoos but because I thought this was less about wanting a tattoo and more about trying to push
boundaries I discouraged them from doing that. Later on, as the boundaries kept being pushed, I changed my strategy and said that if they were going to get a tattoo then so was I! The tattoo I would have on the top of my arm I told them were the letters ROM XII.II. Let me explain – ROM XII.II is shorthand for Romans 12:2: in other words, a reference to Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 12 verse 2. Perhaps the prospect of their dad using his upper arm as a prompt to start conversations about a Bible passage put them off from having a tattoo for a few years – the delaying strategy had been successful!
Now, I want to reiterate that I’m really not against tattoos – I think there
are some beautiful ones about – BUT I haven’t quite got round to having
my own tattoo. In truth, I’m a bit too afraid of needles to have one – I just about manage to write a shopping list on the back of my hand but that’s about as far as I manage to go. That said, the verse from Romans 12:2 is one of my favourite passages from scripture – in the translation I carry around in my head it is ‘do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds’. I think this is an awesome statement that Paul makes: do not conform to the world’s way, be transformed by the renewal of your minds. Worthy of anyone’s upper arm I’d say.
The world constantly tries to make us to conform to what it considers to be apt. The world does that all day long in all the images and sounds we receive from advertisers and media and politicians. The world pushes us to conform; and so often we do conform, even when we know it’s the wrong thing to do. But we don’t have to conform to the ways of the world – especially when we know it’s the wrong thing to do. Do not conform Paul writes – this is an exhortation but it’s also a promise, that through Christ, we don’t have to conform to the world.
Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, Paul goes on. The renewal of mind here means something different to just learning a set of facts or following a set of rules or even from having a particular moral code. It’s much more about changing our whole way of thinking: it’s about seeking
to discern the will of God, it’s about trying to work out what God’s will is for our lives. We do that through prayer, we do that through reading the Bible, we do that through reflecting on how to live out Christ’s teaching in our lives. We do that best as part of a community of faith, trying together as
brothers and sisters in Christ to work out God’s will for our lives.
Whatever we are facing in our lives at present – whatever joys, whatever challenges, whatever decisions we need to take, seeking God’s will for our lives will be the best way to live our lives. That is an incredibly important message for us to hear and an incredibly important message for us to share.
Perhaps I should include in my personal prayer whether to have that tattoo as that conversation starter about that important message!
With my continued prayers and very best wishes.