Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2 NIV
Once I separated from abusive family members, who had normalized perversion and had exposed me to adult-only content at such a tender age that I cannot recall ever not being exposed to it, I slowly regained my innocence. My mind was renewed and transformed by Jesus. The Holy Spirit/Jesus did most of that work. I believe the hardest thing I had to do in that renewal process was to just make myself fully available to it.
I could only be fully available for that working-over from Him, after I actually cut ties with unrepentant abusers, and others who had been so normalized that they still couldn’t see what had happened as abuse. Otherwise their continued hold on my mind would have been such that I doubt I ever would have fully seen the damages done to my own ability to discern appropriate from the inappropriate. Therein, once I had unyoked myself from evil, I was able to yoke myself to Jesus. And then He began the greater work in me.
Off color jokes (I put jokes in italics as I came to see such things as the intentional normalization of perversion, desensitizing everyone who hears them to the greater acceptance of evil, and thereby stealing the innocence of children too) became disgusting, they simply were not funny anymore to me. Which is why I wrote earlier that I regained my innocence. As suddenly I could see what innocence even looked like, for the first time in my life.
Uncouth behaviors and inappropriate comments no longer tempted me to laugh along and/or brush them off. Such things became just that: uncouth and inappropriate. I was frequently upset all over again too, at how my own mind had been washed over, in my upbringing, to just accept these behaviors as normal. And I was continually amazed at how powerful God’s hand in my healing was– to then so handily undo that brainwashing and give me a real washing clean too. I was also grieved at how much of my life I had spent saying and accepting such perverted and uncouth things myself, as if they were funny or entertaining or pleasurable somehow, instead of alarming and evil things– to be coming from a professing Christian’s mouth.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.Romans 12:16 NIV
Looking back on my childhood, I saw that there were many times where certain relatives, and others in our church family, were obviously unsettled by my family’s outright perverted words and behaviors. Those relatives or church members kept their distance and didn’t even attend the events my parents or older relatives hosted. When we ran into them while out and about, they acted aloof and a bit cold around us. My mom, in particular, had a ready excuse as to why some people in the extended family, and even our church, seemed to shun us:
Oh, she thinks she’s too good for us. Mom would mutter and wave her hands in dismissal over so and so’s uppity behavior in not wanting to mingle with us lowlier sorts. It was like an inverse interpretation of Romans 12:16 which exhorts us to: be willing to associate with people of low position. Basically, the rule I learned (was brainwashed with) as a kid, was this: to not go along with outright perversion and crass joking made you a prude. Prudes are uppity and think themselves too good to associate with others. That’s BAD.
All of which then led me to think, in my own adult life, that by continuing to talk to people who displayed open perversion or uncouth, rough and even dangerous behaviors, I was somehow willing to associate with people of a low position, which made me better than others who were not willing to tolerate people of low positions. Therefore: tolerating perverts was better than being uppity, than being known as a prude…
Except there is a footnote to the Romans 12:16 verse which says an alternative interpretation is to be willing to do menial work…in other words, Romans 12:16 does not mean we are to be willing to associate with those who tell dirty jokes in the presence of children. It means we are to be willing to do menial work ourselves, alongside those others who are also doing menial work. We are not to consider menial work to be beneath us.
The irony in that is that it is pretty basic, menial work in one sense: to separate ourselves from evil and to let Jesus renew our minds as we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). It is menial work to start to tame our own tongues, knowing that sin begins as desires in the mind and then gives birth to words and sinful actions (James 1:15).
As far as putting up with perverts, uncouth joking, crass and evil behaviors? The Bible has a lot to say about not tolerating that, and not emulating it either. There’s likely a very good reason some relatives ended up shunning my family in my childhood: as I am now doing myself. Dividing out from evil has nothing to do with thinking one’s self better than another. It has more to do with simply being unable to tolerate wickedness, and especially not the destruction of children’s innocence, when you are yoked to Jesus.