The Origin of Nonconformit

The term nonconformity is a Biblical term derived from the Scripture "be not conformed to this world" as found in Romans 12:2. The word conformed comes from the same Greek word that is translated "fashioning" in I Peter 1:14 where Peter tells Christians not to fashion themselves like they did when they did not know any better. This word, as it is used in the Bible always refers to the outward appearance of a person or object. The fashion pages of the newspapers and catalogs will also verify that it has reference to some form of outward appearance. Nonconformity, therefore, as it is used in Romans 12:1, 2, not only includes direct reference to the changed outward appearance of our bodies which we are to present to God. This new outward appearance springs from, and bears testimony to, the transformation of a mind which was previously in ignorance of, and in opposition to, God's will. Since nonconformity always has reference to an outward expression it is perfectly consistent to think of Romans 12:2 as relating primarily to the Christian's manner of dress and his general outward appearance.

Nonconformity began with a departing from and a loss of conformity to God. Therefore, the very  first experience of nonconformity was a nonconformity to God. I shall endeavor to clarify this assertion.

When celestial visitors appeared to men on earth and their raiment is referred to, it is said to be white. Daniel saw the "Ancient of Days” clothed with a garment "white as snow". (Daniel 7:9). On the holy mount some of the disciples had the privilege of seeing a prefiguration of Christ's future glory and "His raiment was white as the light." (Matthew 17:2). The angel that rolled away the stone from the grave of Jesus was clothed in "raiment as white as snow" (Matthew 28:3), and the "young man” seen sitting inside the empty grave of was "clothed in a long white garment." (Mark 16:5).

Since Satan was once the "anointed Cherub" and a member of the celestial family, and since in every Biblical description of heavenly dress it is said to be white, we conclude that Satan in his perfect state must also have been clothed in celestial white. But when he changed his heart attitude from that of purity toward God to rebellion toward Him and was "cast as profane out of the mount of God," his outward appearance also changed. The "great red dragon . . . that old serpent, the devil" had his holy celestial outward beauty replaced with a devilish, sinful and dangerously red color.

In this connection it is of interest to note that the Bible uses red and bright red (crimson) as the symbolic color for sin. (Isaiah 1:18). The Bible also refers to red as the color of harlotry (Revelation 17:4) and as the color of vanity (Jeremiah 4:30). In our day it seems rather significant that the greatest anti-God political powers of the world have chosen to give themselves the color the Bible ascribes to the devil, to sin, to harlotry and to vanity. In the most corrupt religion of the world, the leaders who rank next to the Pope are also given a red symbol (Cardinals) and wear red hats and cassocks. Red is also considered the universal color for danger.

The devil, once like unto God in heart and appearance, has, ever since his fall been non-conformed to God in both his heart and his real outward appearance. This origin of nonconformity to God began sometime in the dateless past.

When God made Adam and Eve in His own likeness, their appearance must have been somewhat like the Psalmist's view of God when he says “...Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest Thyself with a light as with a garment..." (Psalm 104:1,2). In their original state they were conformed unto God in both heart and appearance. But the devil came to them and persuaded them to be not like unto God in their inner attitudes of respect and obedience. Adam and Eve listened to the devil and behold, as their inner attitude toward the likeness of God changed their outward appearance changed also and they, like the devil became non-conformed unto God. They immediately sensed their loss of glory and majesty and ran for cover.

God came to their rescue, however, and through the shedding of innocent blood provided an adequate covering for their naked bodies. That blood that was shed might beautifully typify that which changes the heart and adequate covering was the outward evidence of that inner change. The man of Gadarea whose mind and heart was demon-controlled gave evidence of his demon possession by his outward appearance. The record declares that he “ware” no clothes. When the Gadarean's heart was cleansed and his attitude toward Jesus changed, his outward appearance was also changed. He was now clothed and in his right mind.

Originally, nonconformity was nonconformity to God. Now that man has separated himself from God, the call comes to us to renew our minds favorably toward God and not be conformed to this world.

Christian experience begins with a transformation (inner change) of heart and mind which must result in an outward change of appearance again in conformity to God-likeness.

--Aaron M. Shank

May 1973 Eastern Mennonite Testimony