Have you ever woken up and heard the sound of a car exhaust, clearly, not legal to be on the streets? It’s Roaring. Deafening. As much as we hate it, we forget the car owner designed it to sound that way. To the person who believes in God, culture can be a loud orchestra of voices that needs to be silenced. For the majority, culture seems peaceful and comfortable most of the time. It’s that sweet whisper in our ear that says this is normal, this is progressive, this is rational, when in reality, most social reforms are killing our society. Of course, we are witnessing nothing new. History shows us many examples of people who seemed ‘insignificant’ and yet, transformed their generation by standing up to the status quo. As Christians, we can learn a lot from brave men and women in the bible who refused to compromise on their values. One such man is Daniel.
In 605 BC young Daniel was captured from Jerusalem and forced to work for a barbaric and narcissistic king named Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was a skilled negotiator. He knew how to administrate and influence the powers that be. More importantly, Daniel believed and trusted that his God would help him to survive under Nebuchadnezzar’s tyrannous rule. Daniel realised as soon as he arrived in Babylon that he needed to stand out and be effective. As Christians today, this is something we all desperately need to grasp. It’s not about trying to put on a pretence, or to be something we’re not – it’s realising that God has given us unique gifts to impact this world.
There are three things we can learn from the life of Daniel.
- You need to know who you are.
The thing about culture today is that culture is obsessed with ‘labels’. It’s no suprise that when we go to a social function today, one of the first questions people ask is, ‘what do you do for a job?’ People are either, proud, of their title or embarrassed. Why? They associate it with their identity. Their job becomes central to who they are. Teenagers today are told their sexuality is ‘who they are’. The LGBTIQ community cries ‘YOU are your sexual orientiation and gender preference. Own it. Be proud!’ If only people knew they are so much more than their sexuality or gender. Our God gave us value, identity and love, before society even labeled us with names. Daniel knew that despite his given title, he was God’s child first. He knew who he was before he was renamed.
- You must settle what you believe
Have you noticed that culture is changing our standards? Culture doesn’t value people, it devalues human life. It demands us to ‘change’ and adapt to what is acceptable, regardless of whether it is right. When Daniel had been promoted due to his skills, he was suddenly surrounded by luxury, status and comfort. As part of his newfound role he was presented with gourmet food – roast meats, wines, sweets – all of which he knew were not good for his health. Rather than conforming to make others feel ‘comfortable’, Daniel decided to opt for healthier food. He specifically requested to be served different food. That’s rare. Here’s the thing though. Daniel made the decision to eat well long before he was taken captive. He didn’t wait until the moment of temptation when all the food was brought before him to ‘eat well’. We do ourselves no favours if we aren’t prepared for the test that is coming. Know your standards, know what you belive in, otherwise you will easily end up conforming to what is expected of you.
- Be prepared to be tested!
You can be the nicest person in the world, read multiple self-help books, you could even be the most skilled negotiator in your workplace. At some point culture will test us. In order for us to stand firm, we need to be prepared, but we also need to have grace and truth. In the bible, Jesus meets a tax collector named Zacchaeus who is shunned by most of society because of his tendency to demand more than necessary. Rather than condemning Zacchaeus or excluding him, Jesus looks beyond his position and follows him to his house for dinner. Jesus knows that the pharisees are watching his every move and observing if he will associate with this sinner. Jesus does it anyway. Isn’t it funny how easily we get wrapped in our own Christian bubble, that we forget, so many people are crying out for love and acceptance? Quite often, we don’t want to take the risk because things get ‘messy’. We like to play it safe. Our own friends don’t demand much. We don’t need drama. Drama means time and time is precious.
Our train ministry was birthed out of a love for people who are in a vulnerable place in society. Our volunteers hand out sausages to people on the streets – people who crave conversation, acceptance and love. We have seen many people come to church and believe in God because one person decided to establish a ministry to embrace the ‘messy’ and serve. Without volunteers, these ministires cease to operate.
Church, we have been called to be salt and light. We can’t do that if we’re running around ‘finding ouselves’, conforming to what society tells us is acceptable, and relying on our own strength. God has called us to live in the power of his grace. God doesn’t want us to live in fear when we stand our ground, he wants us to learn to rely on him just like Daniel did.