A new realisation
There are times I have said things or written things that could make people question my beliefs, especially my professed Christianity, the truth is I express my religious beliefs as a journey rather than a destination.
I cut my teeth on the King James Version (KJV) of the bible, written in the English parlance of the Jacobean era, following amazingly strict rules of grammar and expression, it is easy as it is inscrutable to read, but I love it.
The following verses from the Epistle of Paul to the Romans is often quoted, but it was not until the last weekend in church that it dawned on me that the clues what to do were embedded in the text itself.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (KJV) From BibleGateway.com
From conforming to transforming
As Christians, we usually take the first verse as a given, after sacrament, ritual, liturgy and prayer, we assume a sense of piety and humility, the open show of which is sometimes too hypocritical for words.
The second verse however requires some work; the choice is either to remain conformed to the norm of doing things are be transformed. This transformation is a process of renewing the mind, and that is where I found some startling revelation.
This time, rather than use the somewhat obscurantist word-for-word King James Version which follows the formal equivalence translation method, I will use The Message which is a paraphrase of the bible on the right side of dynamic equivalence. See the diagram below.
Courtesy of Comparison of English Bible translations - © Mark Barry 2010
Acts to transformation
What I observe in the highlights that follow show the differences in listed in Romans 12 between being conformed and being transformed; you implicitly see how the transformation renews the mind, the thinking and the mind-set to live an exemplary Christian life.
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12 (The Message) From BibleGateway.com
Good Samaritan values
On hearing this whole chapter read out in church, I realised that the don’ts illustrate the being conformed and the dos illustrate the transformation that renews the mind.
Another version of the English bible you can review of Romans 12 is the New Living Translation which sits somewhere in the middle ground of translation models of the King James Version (KJV) and The Message (MSG).
More pertinent, this shows how to celebrate our humanity with the maturity that embraces everyone from friend to the stranger, from the attractive to the not so attractive and most of all, those we would naturally revile, hate, envy and treat as enemies. There is just no excuse to treat anyone badly, not one at all.
This is what I will call, Good Samaritan values and virtues, every one of us possesses them, if we try hard enough to be good to each other.