By: Jordyn Pollard
We’ve all seen it. That post on Facebook with 357 comments that range from the downright mean to the downright obnoxious. The pictures of parades to demonstrate it doesn’t matter who you love, “just be happy.” Sigh. What’s a Christian to do when the culture screams to abandon your beliefs? Do you throw your Bible in their face while screaming right back at them? Perhaps cower in fear that someone labels you homophobic so all opinions are kept tightlipped inside?
If you grew up in church, the story of Daniel and the lions den is your first encounter with him. But there is so much more we can learn from Daniel. He was thrown into a wild, pagan world, yet it never permeated his heart. The Babylonian king was pretty smart—he had taken teenagers, placed them in a palace that screamed to them from every angle to give up on God, embrace the culture, taste success by following the Babylonian way. Most teens would easily succumb to that kind of peer-pressure lifestyle.
But not Daniel. He was in a divinely appointed place for proclaiming God to an unbelieving nation. Daniel made a seemingly small choice. He resolved to not eat from the king’s table. It seems rather insignificant—-does it really matter about a meal?
But the issue was bigger than vegetables vs. steak. Daniel knew if he didn’t exercise restraint, the king’s tactic would be successful and he would slowly assimilate into this pagan culture. So daily, in the quiet moments of eating, while others feasted on the king’s food, Daniel remembered the Greater King to Whom he belonged and to where his true citizenship lies.
But we are living in 2018. Aren’t the cultural issues we face so much worse than in Daniel’s time? Doubtful. Remember how his friends were thrown in a FIRE for standing up for God? That certainly redefines a “hot button issue.” The backlash we face in America is much more in words and thoughts than in actions designed for our own demise.
But what is a Christian to do? How does a Christian engage the culture without embodying the culture? Let’s look at the example of Daniel.
- Daniel treated people as people. The phrase “the culture” has become such a Christian buzzword that we have lost the humanity within it. “The culture” is not a big, unknown group bound and determined to undermine Christianity at every turn. “The culture” is Jim—the guy who has been your coworker for the last seven years. “The culture” is Laura—your daughter’s best friend’s mom. “The culture” is Kate who has lived next door for a decade. “The culture” is real people with real feelings, real emotions, real questions, and ultimately, a need for a real Savior.
When the king needed his dream interpreted, Daniel didn’t say, “Well, you are part of “the culture” that is completely against God, so I won’t help you at all.” Daniel, in the power of God, interpreted his dream. We must quit thinking the culture is this vast faceless group whose only goal is to eradicate Christianity. It’s ordinary people, living their ordinary lives, who will be most impacted by you and me—ordinary people living our ordinary lives yet pointing them to our extraordinary Christ.
- Daniel knew that sinners sin. Well, that sounds completely obvious—but is it? Pastor Randy preached a sermon about sinners in which he said, “Fish swim. Frogs jump. and sinners sin.” Why are we shocked when sinners sin? It’s what they do! This is why Daniel resolved in his own heart to follow God. He didn’t require it of everyone around him; he made his own daily, small choices of righteousness. Choices that, in their quietness, trumpeted to this pagan world that he did not belong there. Daniel didn’t proclaim God loudly, nor did he bellow his beliefs up and down the main square. Daniel didn’t comment on every Facebook post that seemed anti- Christian.
We must stop attacking a sinner’s choices, protesting their events, and making them feel unwelcome and unworthy of sitting next to us on Sundays. Do we want them to know our Savior? Then treat them with the respect Jesus treated the Samaritan woman and the tax collectors. He ate with them. He talked to them. Jesus exemplified mercy and kindness, not hatred and disdain. An “us vs. them” attitude never pointed anyone to Him, nor does it reflect His sacrificial love.
- Daniel loved. He loved his fellow brothers. But his love didn’t end there—he loved the king he served and the community in which he lived. Does your love end at your fellow Christian? We can’t engage a culture that we don’t love. Without love, we are noise instead of music. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-2)
- Daniel knew when to stand his ground. There were moments Daniel kept his mouth closed, when his quiet choices reverberated with loud aftershocks. But Daniel also didn’t back down when it was necessary. He would not bow down to anyone but the one true God. So how do we know when to stand up? How do we know when the culture needs to hear truth? Let the Holy Spirit guide. Do you want to share beliefs because perhaps Christianity needs a warrior hero, defending it to the death? That’s not the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Watch your motives. Are we engaging them with the truth in love or because we feel pushed to the populace minority? Stand your ground and speak truth, but only with a heart full of Christ’s love. Ask God for wisdom on when to speak. “If anyone lacks wisdom, he ought to ask God, who gives to all generously…” (James 1:5).
Daniel resolved in his own heart to follow God, ignore even the smallest hints of assimilating with the culture, and ultimately, did not become a lion’s dinner because of his unrelenting faithfulness. Oh, that the same may be said of us! Because we know our enemy prowls like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He’s trying to devour you by saying to “embrace the culture,” “escape the culture,” or even “enrage the culture” by thumping your Bible mercilessly at it.
But friends, the culture is not a mere territory to be won.
It’s not an argument that needs to be battled until its participants are humiliated and mutilated.
No one wins in those arguments; there are only losers.
“The culture” is a person.
A person you know.
A person Christ died for.
A person worthy of our respect, mercy, and kindness. A person who needs to hear Truth offered out of a heart brimming with love and forgiveness. Just like you needed.
So, let us not seek to escape our culture, but let’s allow the grace of Christ to motivate and carry us as we engage our culture with his love just as Daniel did.