Conformed? Informed? Or Transformed?

How do you know an Adventist when you see one?

Often it’s not that difficult, because Adventists tend to conform to a certain lifestyle (practices of dress, vocabulary, or style) that mark us as a “peculiar people.” Any group, for that matter, has corporate boundary markers that define their association. For example, if you spot a Volkswagen van plastered with peace signs and piloted by a long-haired, tie-dye-wearing man with granny-glasses, you might assume him to be a hippie stuck in the happy days.

In the same way, bikers, farmers, doctors, politicians, rock stars and every other group have their own ways of distinguishing who is a part of their fraternity. They do this by practicing customs of conformity. Similarly, as Adventists we conform to certain practices of Sabbath observance, worship, dress, and diet that help to define who we are.

With the 58th General Conference session just around the corner, I am reminded of the last G.C. meeting in Toronto. Over 60,000 Adventists invaded the SkyDome. The convention attracted a wonderful and global collection of people. But no matter where the Adventists came from, we all seemed to conform to certain lifestyle choices.

This became clear to me while watching a hot-dog vendor planted in prime real estate right in front of the stadium. Much to his dismay, thousands of disinterested folk hurried by his sign advertising “100% PORK HOT DOGS.” I wanted to explain to the poor fellow that most of the pedestrians were Seventh-day Adventists who abstain from "unclean" wieners.

Now mind you, we’re not always consistent in our health-reform message. Right next to the hot-dog vendor was an ice-cream truck. People lined up for a city block to score a soft serve. I figure that guy sold a million dollars worth of ice cream that week—of course that was in Canadian currency, which at the time was a hundred bucks or so, but still, a good pay day!

Now here’s the rub (mind if I meddle?): As Adventists, we won’t touch a piece of pork, because that’s an important boundary marker. Yet, we can gorge on ice cream and high-fat vegetarian dogs, fail to get adequate exercise and sleep, gossip, covet, and lust—and still remain Adventists in good and regular standing because we carefully observe the external markers that define us.

While conformity may be important, it is not the most important thing. As a church, we should not be peculiar because we conform to certain behaviors; rather, our uniqueness should come from having been transformed into the likeness of Christ. The apostle Paul said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

It’s not enough to be informed on prophetic doctrines. Nor is it enough to simply conform to certain behaviors. Ultimately, we must be transformed into the loving character of Christ. By this will all people know that we are Adventists.

June 01, 2005 / Fresh Start