Transformed Nonconformist: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Transforming Center is closed today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his courageous leadership in championing racial justice and equality through the use of non-violent resistance.  In particular, we celebrate the fact that he provided this leadership, not merely as a social activist, but as a minister of the Gospel, proclaiming the good news of radical equality for all God’s people.

Today we encourage you to take time to pray—alone and with others—that God will expose the sin of racism in our own hearts and systems, and show us what it looks like to be “transformed nonconformists” as we minister in Jesus’ name.  During these tumultuous days, Dr. King’s challenge to us to become “transformed nonconformists” is as relevant as when he first preached this message so many years ago straight from Romans 12:2.

How grateful we are for this transformed nonconformist who never yielded to the passive sort of patience that is an excuse to do nothing. May God speak freshly to our souls this day as we reflect on his life, his deeply spiritual teachings, and the actions that flowed from them.

Transformed Nonconformist

“We as Christians have a mandate to be nonconformists. The Apostle Paul, who knew the inner realities of the Christian faith, counseled,   “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  We are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility, not social respectability.  We are commanded to live differently and according to a higher loyalty.

Nonconformity itself, however, may not necessarily be good and may at times possess neither transforming or redemptive power.  Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.  The transformed nonconformist, moreover, never yields to the passive sort of patience that is an excuse to do nothing.  And this very transformation saves him from speaking irresponsible words that estrange without reconciling and from making hasty judgments that are blind to the necessity of social progress.  He recognizes that social change will not come overnight, yet he works as though it is an imminent possibility.

This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists.  Our planet teeters on the brink of atomic annihilation; dangerous passions of pride, hatred, and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; truth lies prostrate on the rugged hills of nameless calvaries; and men do reverence before false gods of nationalism and materialism.  The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr
excerpt from Strength to Love

What would “transformed nonconformity” look like in your life today?

Leave a comment below.

For further reflection:
Martin Luther King, Jr and the Soul of Leadership
Part 1: Opposites in Fruitful Harmony
Part 2: Inner Strength for Outer Action
Part 3: Love in Action

Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest (Oct 2022).
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Hi Ruth excellent article on a man who stuck to his guns and paid the price. Here in South Africa we are waiting patiently for a man to stand up and not conform to the current chaos. Today it is tough not to conform to the chaos. As a practising electrician have to certify houses wiring daily. It is a reality. John Haggee once said, either you conform to the jungle or you conform to the Bible. Make up your mind.

Thank you very much for your articles and the reading program which I follow daily.
God bless you and your hard work.
PS Love your podcast.

A bit like me I suppose!
Frayed round the edges, bleached by the sun and always reading about better ways to keep your healthy head and body healthy. Always with my eye on the next tasty sweet thing that won’t kill me or anyone else but never without reflection and a word with the great beyond, God.

Transforming nonconformity looks like asking uncomfortable questions (with gentleness, grace and warmth) in casual conversations that questions passive bias and prejudice. It means giving up the perceived safety of silence.

Could not agree more, Marla!!

Right now in Minneapolis the temp is 4 degrees below zero. There are people living under a bridge not far from where I now sit. Transformed nonconformity means that I sacrifice comfort and brave the elements to enter into relationships, be led by the Spirit, meet needs. Transformed nonconformity means that I bring hope along with socks, hats, and mittens. Transformed nonconformity means that I love… radically.
Jim Gates, TC12

Thanks, Jim, for such a clear picture of what transformed non-conformity looks like for you. Bless you and all you touch today.

Excellent article! I have forwarded this article to the students who are taking a class on ‘Proclaiming God’s Voice’ to the world we find ourselves in. I believe this is the voice of The Role of the Modern Day Prophet….
Great thoughts!

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