Believers in a hostile world…



Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power…Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility…they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court…But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself.

The book of Daniel begins with the Babylonians defeating Israel and taking many people into captivity in Babylon – including Daniel. Daniel was among the promising young nobility of Israel whom King Nebuchadnezzar had identified as potential servants in his own court. So far, so good. Better this situation than being dead.

The king wants Daniel to eat “royal rations of food and wine” to give him strength in order to better serve the king – but this is a problem. Why? We assume that the royal diet of Babylon includes foods that are prohibited by the Jewish dietary laws. So rather than eat “unclean” foods, Daniel asks to be exempt. If you read on you’ll see that God gives Daniel favor. Daniel’s request is granted and he thrives, despite the fact that he has little to eat.

As we continue the story of Daniel we will see further examples of Daniel refusing to go along with the rules of his captors, despite the dangers of disobedience. Daniel has no power in Babylon. Yet, again and again, God comes to his aid. A key principal emerges for me in this story of Daniel.

When we honor God, despite the dangers of doing so, God will honor us.

I was talking recently with a young woman who is a member of the congregation I lead in suburban Dallas. She was on a social outing with some of her fellow grad students to an area theme park. I forget the exact circumstances, but it came out in conversation that she is a Christian – and the confrontation began.

Two of the stronger personalities in the group began to question her in what she perceived to be a hostile manner. She initially tried to answer their questions, but it soon became apparent they weren’t really interested in what she had to say. They would simply talk over her conveying how stupid they thought she was to be a Christian. How could anyone with any intellect believe all that stuff? Thankfully, once she backed down, they changed the subject – but this young lady was disturbed by the encounter. Hence, she asked to speak with me.

In some ways this was a simple case of a young woman, for the first time in her life, having to defend her views to some unreasonable people. It will surely not be the last time something like this happens. Yet it does highlight an increasingly hostile world in which we Christians live, particularly in the West.

And the truth is, sometimes it’s easier to just back down from our convications, or hide the fact that we are Christians, to avoid confrontation – or outright persecution. I’ve done this before, have you?

 In fact, speaking personally, I have encountered far more confrontation from progressive Christians than from non-Christians.

Because I tend to hold traditional views and values, while being part of a denomination that tends to lean left, I’ve been accused of being bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, and many other things – by other Christians. OF MY OWN TRIBE! (sigh…)

Today’s passage has me wondering where I might have the opportunity to honor God in public today. What about you?

Heavenly Father, it’s not easy being a person of faith in a world that is increasingly hostile. Give us grace to stand up for what we believe, especially when it’s difficult to do so. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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