Summary: If we want to engage and influence a post-Christian culture which no longer shares our values, we must recognize that God is sovereign, resolve to obey God, and relate to unbelievers with respect.
Just last year (March 21, 2012), the Washington Times carried a story about a 3-million dollar strip club being built next to a retirement home for nuns in Chicago’s western suburbs. “On one side of the fence are women in habits and wimples who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,” says the article. “On the other side of that fence, if a developer gets his way, will be women in G-strings in the business of nudity, dollars and prurience.” Last Spring (2012), the Get It gentleman’s club was on track to open just feet away from the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo’s retirement home. Imagine that: a bunch of nuns living next to a porno palace.
Sometimes, as a follower of Christ I feel like those nuns in Chicago’s western suburbs. After all, we are living in a society which is becoming more and more godless, more and more depraved, and even hostile to Christians.
Just this year, we’ve heard reports about: Military members who can be court marshaled if they share their faith while on duty; ObamaCare forcing Christian employers and organizations to fund abortion causing drugs against their deeply held religious beliefs; the IRS targeting conservative and Christian groups for special scrutiny; Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, given a government grant to promote ObamaCare; and gay marriage becoming legal in more and more states. On Monday, August 12, Governor Jerry Brown signed bill into law allowing transgender students in California to choose which restroom and locker room they use. And just this last Wednesday (August 20, 2013), Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey reported that he would sign a bill banning therapy to turn gay teens straight (Fox News, 8/20/2013). Things that were unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago, are quickly becoming the norm in our society today.
A survey reported in a recent issue of Esquire magazine (May 2010), found that among 10,000 U.S. young women (average age 27.6): The majority do not pray (55%); 89% support gay marriage; and 89% believe in evolution.
How is a follower of Christ supposed to live in such a hostile environment to Christians? How are we as those committed to Christ supposed to engage a post-Christian society which no longer shares our values? How can we as believers in Christ influence a culture which is desperate to influence us in the wrong way?
Well, there is a lot we can learn from the Old Testament character of Daniel. In his teen years, he was jerked from his godly home in Judah and plopped right down in the middle of the wicked city of Babylon. The people around him were hostile to his values and beliefs. And yet Daniel thrived in that culture and was able to influence people at the highest levels of that godless society.
How did he do it? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Daniel 1, Daniel 1, where we meet this young man and learn from him how to influence a godless culture in a godly direction.
Daniel 1:1-7 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. (NIV)
Now, put yourself in Daniel’s shoes. He was stripped of his home. He was kidnapped, taken hostage to keep his own king in line. Then he was stripped of his manhood. Daniel was most likely castrated, because he was to serve in the king’s palace. The king’s officials were called “eunuchs,” which means “those who are castrated” (2 Kings 20:18; Isaiah 39:7).
More than that, Daniel was stripped of his culture. He was to be educated in the ways of the Babylonians, indoctrinated with their language and literature. He was also being asked to give up his own religion. They were going to force him to eat from the king’s table, which was a violation of his faith. Not only did the food from the king’s table violate Jewish dietary laws, it was offered to the Babylonian gods. Thus eating that food meant participating in the worship of those gods.