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You have heard it said of old, but I say unto you . . . Matthew 5:21, 27, 33


Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

The story is told that as the railroads began to lose their dominance to cars as the chief mode of human transportation, the railroad executives sought desperately for a way to restore their ridership. They brought in the best railroad people they could find to suggest ways to stem the tide of lost passenger miles. They tried to fix up the train cars, improve service, add “observation” cars to allow passengers better views, and improve food service. But alas, none of it worked.

The problem was that the railroad people were so locked into a particular way of thinking that they were almost naturally unable to solve the problems. They lived and thought only in the world of railroads so all their “answers” were within that frame of reference. If they had thought more broadly and “outside the box” they would have realized that they were not in the RR business, but the transportation business, and would have bought the airlines and today we’d have the B&O airplane, and the Union Pacific and the Santa Fe airlines.

Today in our rapidly changing culture, writers often speak of the necessity of “thinking outside the box,” of not getting trapped by old ways of thinking that condition our minds. Indeed, the prominent “success stories” of the modern world are people who were often outside the system, and that enable them to think and dream more imaginatively, and not be captured by the paradigms of their culture.

The Scriptures also evidence the necessity at times of escaping the conceptual “box” which keeps us from understanding and reveling in the call and glory of God. Consider the early disciples! Their “box” had no place for a suffering, dying Messiah, no framework for seeing the law of Moses placed in a subordinate place, no theology for place at the table for Samaritans, etc. but their little mental/theological/cultural world became shattered by the power of the crucified and risen Lord. All kinds of walls and curtains were torn that week, besides the one in the temple. Now, one new person in Christ was created, old things were passing away and all things becoming new. That newness meant that Peter and James had to get out of the box, and have new minds conformed to the Spirit of Christ, new minds to grasp and grapple with an unexpected reality.

No wonder Paul in Romans speaks not only of new moral commitments, new hearts and new wills, but new minds. Without them, one will not even perceive what’s going on. You’ll miss the revolution.

Getting outside the box is not easy—that’s why it’s called a “box.” We are indeed, as Paul notes, conformed to the world, in ways mostly unconscious. A sort of cultural conditioning that is so pervasive it is no more conscious than the atmospheric pressure upon us every day. How critical it is then that we commit ourselves to seek in the Word of God and in our relationship with Christ, that He will help us escape the presumptions which may blind us to His purposes. How essential to open ourselves to experiences that may challenge our favorite prejudices. How fundamental to recognize that just as the early disciples had to rethink many of their favorite ideas, even religious ones, we too must “bring every thought into conformity” with God’s Word.

As lawyers we are instinctively and culturally trained to “think like lawyers,” and to live within certain frames of reference. Stare decisis, precedent, tradition, law—this is the stuff of boxes. Of course, not all of this is bad. Some boxes are reflections of truth and commitments to principle. Some boxes guide and protect. Sometimes, escaping the boxes is a rush to license and confusion. But not all. Some boxes are illusions, false security and pride.

While we may proudly declare we are “new creatures in Christ,” sadly that is often not very true in the context of our opening ourselves to the richest truths of God. We cherish old patterns, and would prefer just to be “save” and keep our “world.” But God is constantly seeking to break through.

It seems in almost every arena of human activity we are discovering that reality is far more complex, rich and surprising than we had thought: the cosmos, the elemental particles of the universe, genetic codes—and so it is with spiritual reality. The Lord’s will and work surely is far more sweeping, more complex and surprising than we had ever thought, ever been taught or imagined. Don’t miss it.

Lynn R. Buzzard

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.