Transformation is the evangelical mantra of our times. Everyone either hopes for it or promises it. Transformation of self. Transformation of church. Transformation of culture.

Faithful readers of this column know such talk makes me nervous, and I've not hesitated to puncture some of the inflated rhetoric surrounding the word. But as my loving wife is not hesitant to point out, I sometimes seem more interested in being provocative than in being clear. Fair enough—and that's only one of my character flaws. So let's see if I can be more clear.

(I fear, however, that being clear will only result in my being even more provocative!)

Whenever I suggest that transformation should not be main motive of the Christian life, many reply, "What's the point of being a Christian if it's not going to make a difference?" Or as one commenter put it, "Okay, so we just can't expect much to happen. … I'm off to the golf course." (That's not a bad suggestion, actually. Because golf, which I absolutely love, is one of the most useless sports ever invented. There is no justification for playing it. All of which fits perfectly with what I'm about to say about lack of self-justification).

To those who wonder what good is Christian faith if it's not going to make a difference, I reply: If you're a Christian mainly because you want to be changed, that's a problem. If you've given your life to God mostly because you are tired of yourself and want to be a different person—well, that may suggest you're merely using God to fix you. That's not faith. That's not love of God. That's love of self.

If you look into your heart and determine that you have given your life to God mostly because you are tired of the world and wish it were different ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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