The heroes of history have usually been non-conformists. They are the people we admire and maybe wished we had the courage to emulate. They refused to accept the status quo. They refused conformity to the hard-line establishment.
Jesus of Nazareth was the quintessential non-conformist, refusing to fit in with the corrupt religious establishment of his day. He ignored anti-scriptural traditions. He placed love over ritual and "relaxed" the law when it conflicted with human need. He offended all the leading parties.
Christ-followers are likewise to be non-conformists. While in the world, we are not of it (John 17:14-16). We don't fit in. We're different.
Paul was a non-conformist, insisting that fellow Christ-followers not be conformed to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2). In his allegiance to Christ, Paul bucks the established system. He refused to bind his traditions upon others. Life might have gone easier had he simply complied with the legalistic Judaizers. Paul's insistence upon justification by faith, and not by works, became the rallying cry of Luther's Reformation.
Martin Luther, a non-conformist priest, bucked the system in his rejection of indulgences, penance, transubstantiation, pilgrimages, relics, and anything else that might hint of salvation by works. The Protestant Reformation was launched and Luther is considered brave and heroic.
Our nation was founded upon the non-conformist positions of our Founding Fathers. Men like Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams thought it contrary to the God of Nature that humankind be in bondage to tyranny. They brought forth a new nation in which conformity to the bondage of state religion would not be required of its free citizens. This was a radical concept in the history of civilizations.
In the fertile soil of this new nation were planted additional seeds of religious reform. Brave men like Thomas & Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone rejected creeds and confessions as tests of fellowship. They took the Reformation's sola scriptura beyond what Protestants had formerly considered.
In their day, the non-conformists were considered rebels, rabble rousers, and even heretics by the establishment authorities. It's typically in hindsight that "heretics" are finally viewed as "heroes."
Then, after several generations, the non-conformists' ideas and interpretations are either canonized, corrupted, or both. In time their followers stop calling for reform and start demanding conformity. Forgetting their own non-conformist roots, they slander and persecute the next generation of reformers. Terms like "change agent" are thrown about quite liberally by conservatives. But in time, many of today's "heretics" will be tomorrow's "heroes."