In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God warned the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and those entering the promised land of the consequences of breaking the covenant, of worshiping false gods, of turning their back on the God who had rescued them. The curses of the covenant were not meant purely to be punishment for breaking the law…like a loving Father, they were meant to discipline the people, to bring them back into fellowship with their God. The worst discipline would be expulsion from the land…being taken captive by their enemies and led into exile.
Daniel was writing to a group of folks who had experienced the “nuclear” option up close. Remember that King Jehoiakim of Judah was given into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. It was an act of divine discipline. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, experience that discipline although they are model Israelites. They conduct themselves with integrity and uncompromising faith even in life-threatening circumstances. Daniel’s message…don’t give up, don’t give in, God wins. Ironically, while under God’s divine discipline, the people sin still more. They give up on their faith and give in to the culture. So God gives them over (Romans 1)…they turned their backs on Him, so He allowed them to experience Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
This vision of Daniel’s should have served as a warning to that future generation, but they ignored it. Instead of choosing to fear and obey God above all else, they chose to conform to the culture, to avoid making waves, to blend in. Sound familiar? Sadly yes. It sounds eerily like too many churches today.
The church has historically taken four different approaches to interacting with the surrounding culture…the first is the fortress mentality. Let’s build a Christian subculture where we don’t have to be influenced at all by the world. We’ll have our own Christian radio stations, our own movies, our own guide to businesses…never have to intentionally interact with an unbeliever again. We may avoid being influenced by the world, but we also fail to influence it for the gospel. We’ve made ourselves irrelevant.
The second approach to culture is condemnation. I picture it as the bullhorn mentality, where culture is vehemently opposed and condemned. The world can go to hell. It’s about what we’re against rather than what we’re for. The truth may be spoken, but definitely without love.
The third approach to culture is conformity…giving in to the status quo. If you can’t beat’em, join’em. A scary trend among evangelicals is the shifting views on the biblical definition of marriage. Taking our cue from popular social trends, we make truth relative…no longer is the Genesis 2 definition of marriage, the definition that both Jesus (Matt. 19) and Paul (Eph 5) affirm, consider the church’s stance. Instead we allow the Supreme Court and popular opinion to define marriage very differently. No truth, but the appearance of love. Let me say clearly that we are all broken people, and the church is a place for broken people. Jesus came to save sinners…that’s all of us. God has created each of us in His image, and He loves us with an indescribable love…love that was demonstrated at the cross. We welcome all who come to our church, and we love them; but it doesn’t mean we will give up on the truth of God’s Word.
The fourth approach to culture is engagement. This has rarely been done well. Truly engaging culture…entering into the debate. It means being intentional (8-15). It’s what we’re called to do. It’s what Daniel did.
How did he do it? He was available to be used by God, and he was intentional…he boldly yet compassionately pointed his 8-15 to the God of heaven. We are called to engage our culture…not to run from it, condemn it, or conform to it. For most of us that happens one person at a time. So who are you engaging?
While Daniel’s vision is primarily about an evil king who contends against and persecutes God’s people because of their disobedience, God’s mercy is abundantly clear as He limits the days of the evil king’s persecution and will ultimately destroy him. God who reveals the future will rule the future…may that be a comfort for those of us facing a seemingly uncertain future based on a turbulent present.
Until next time…stay salty.
This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster