In the U.S., Christians have enjoyed a friendly culture for a long time. After all, the United States was born out of Christians seeking freedom to worship as they wished, without government interference. And religious liberty has flourished in America and has had great influence in our society. But that’s changing. Secularism is flourishing, and with it come values that are quite different from Christianity. So faithful Christians find themselves in a foreign land without having moved or been taken into captivity like the nation of Israel. But Daniel’s experience in a foreign land provides a helpful model for living faithfully and fruitfully in a secular society.
Scott Ward talked with Greg about this recently on the podcast, and he wrote about it in an article you can find online. Here are his main observations about facing circumstances that would require us to compromise our convictions.
- Have faith in God’s sovereignty over our circumstances. God is the author of history, and He’s in control, even when we face hostility and challenges. Stay in the Word, and cultivate that confidence in God’s control.
- Maintain your identity in Christ despite the culture and state seeking to co-opt it. Don’t lose that core fact.
- Be wise and prudent in knowing when and how to engage challenges. Scott identifies some specific ways Daniel did this:
- Creativity: Daniel found ways of accomplishing the state’s purpose while not compromising. Instead of automatically being confrontational, try to think of ways to comply without compromise. Confrontation may be required at times, but be creative in avoiding it when possible.
- Carefulness: Be prudent when you see trouble coming. Avoid situations that aren’t necessary, and engage critics with respect.
- Consistency: “Daniel’s consistent faithfulness was legendary.” It had an effect on his reputation, which allowed him some room to maneuver. Be known for your faithfulness.
- Community: Be part of your Christian community to encourage one another to be faithful.
- Courage: Face circumstances that you cannot change, and trust God. Greg has observed that courage in big things is a result of cultivating courage in small things. Be conscientious about cultivating courage.
- Civility: Daniel always expressed his convictions respectfully without being contentious. “He pursued creative, civil resolutions of conflicts with the state’s requirements.”
- Clarity: Daniel’s longevity in a hostile culture can be credited to his confidence in God, who doesn’t change, despite the culture that does. Keep that fact clearly in view.
- Daniel was a man of “persistent powerful prayer.” Daniel prayed for himself, his people, and the nations. And this gave him a perspective of God’s redemptive work across time and history.
There are examples in the Bible, in addition to Daniel, of Christians who were faithful in the face of hostility. There are also examples in the early church. Greg and Amy recently talked with Larry Hurtado about early Christians living in a hostile culture. You can find the interview here. These are examples to instruct and encourage us to be faithful ambassadors for Christ. We need to develop these new skills and perspective as our situation changes. Our circumstances are under God’s control, and our job, as always, is to be faithful witnesses.