Summary: Instructions on how to belong gleaned from Daniel chapter six.
At one time or another we’ve probably all experienced what psychologists call the fear of "social exclusion" - the feeling we don’t belong.
Daniel could have had every reason to feel like he didn’t belong. Taken captive as a teenager by an invading king’s armies, he never got to go home again. He was transplanted to a foreign culture where he needed the wisdom to walk the tightrope of remaining faithful to God and helpful to his unrighteous bosses at the same time.
A vintage saint now in his eighties, Daniel survives another regime change in Babylon. The Medes and Persians have taken over and once again Daniel is called upon to adapt. Which goes to show that no matter how old we are we can learn to adjust to new situations with God’s help.
But adaptation does not mean compromise of our convictions. It takes wisdom, to be sure, to know the difference between our traditions and God’s truth. We can afford to bend when it comes to man-made traditions. When it comes to God’s truth however, we cannot yield.
Daniel could learn the language of his captors, he could contribute to their society’s well being, he could even serve as a high-ranking government official. What he couldn’t do was sacrifice his relationship with God for an arbitrary man-made rule that told him he couldn’t pray.
Over twenty-five hundred years later sincere people of God face the same dilemma Daniel faced. We realize we belong to God but we also sense the need for belonging to people around us. We are wired to be a part of a group. As social beings created in God’s image we long for family. We crave social interaction. We want to be a part of what’s going on around us. That’s only natural.
Problems often arise when our need for belonging gets in the way of our allegiance to God. Sometimes, we have to make a choice. Not always, but sometimes. Our loyalty to God must take precedence over our fear of social exclusion.
Daniel’s experience underscores how very important it is to remain true to our core values even when our sense of belonging is being threatened. It teaches us that the greatest sense of belonging comes from being true to what we believe, not compromising those beliefs in order to be accepted by others.
Consider Daniel’s story more closely for INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO BELONG.
The envy of his enemies in the first five verses of chapter six sets the stage for our enlightenment. Why do people have to be envious and jealous of others? Why can’t they realize there is plenty of success to go around for everyone? You succeed at what you’re good at while others succeed at what they’re good at.
One cause of envy and jealousy is the fact that people experience feelings of inadequacy as we discovered last time from Daniel chapter five. People who don’t have a close walk with God often feel inadequate. They mistakenly base their opinion of themselves on arbitrary yardsticks like how much money they make or how good looking they think they are or how good their grades are or how "popular" they are, etc. We were reminded in Daniel chapter five that ONLY GOD can provide true adequacy for any of us because He is the only constant. Our circumstances change, opinions of others change, our looks change, but God remains the same.
When we have a vital relationship with God, our sins, which would make us inadequate, are forgiven, and we base our adequacy on the fact that we are made in God’s image and we are so important that Jesus died for us! Those are the only stable grounds for adequacy. When we experience this relationship with God we become adequate so we’re interested in being "good and faithful" servants of Christ, which is God’s benchmark of "success".
Here’s what we learn:
BELONGING DOES NOT COME FROM BELITTLING OTHERS.
Someone else doesn’t have to be insignificant for us to be important. We don’t have to take someone else down in order to build ourselves up. Just like with adequacy, we don’t have to have more, or do more than someone else does in order to belong. As we learned in Daniel chapter three from the example of Daniel’s friends - when we come to the realization that we belong to God, the successes or threats of others need not faze us. The three Hebrew children did not bow to the idol of the king because they knew that they did not "belong" to the king or his kingdom. They were among the few that realized they belonged to God.
What liberty! God is reinforcing a very important truth here in Daniel’s autobiographical record. Once we are settled in the assurance that we belong to God we don’t have to live a fearful and threatened existence! We don’t have to experience the fear and loathing inside that characterize a person who feels they don’t belong.