Daniel (2): Engaging with a World
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17
My father-in-law was a faithful hard-working Christian, who helped found a church, and was Sunday school superintendent and church secretary for many years. But he never voted, and viewed much of the world's activities as something to be avoided. When we trotted in from university full of the sociology and economics we were studying, his response was, 'The world by wisdom knew not God' (1 Corinthians 1:21). He thought there were better things to do!
Daniel, forcibly removed from his God-focused society into comfortable but restrictive house arrest in a pagan land, did have a few choices. He could have refused to cooperate and been intransigently hostile, probably ending up dead or enslaved. He could have simply given up, accepted total defeat and obediently done what he was told.
Instead he and his friends went to the enemy's schools, learnt to function in an alien culture and language, read the literature, and engaged with the worldview. But at the same time they chose to maintain their independence as the servants of the one true God. Daniel decided to refuse the food allocated them from the king's kitchens. And because 'God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel' (1:9), they were permitted to live on vegetables.
They established their independence and essential difference from the enveloping and swamping totality of the imperial culture and social world of the palace, with an act of self-effacing humility and self-discipline, without rancour, or disdain for their captors. And after their training, no one was found to compare with them. They were now in a position to influence events within the throne room of a powerful king.
Someone once said that Christians in the world are sometimes chameleons, fading into the colour of the culture, sometimes ostriches with heads in the sand avoiding all contact, and sometimes porcupines, confronting with hackles raised. Daniel chose to understand the world he was in, to respond with courtesy and friendship to his captors, but also to establish his credentials as a servant of the living God.
How do we respond to the world we inhabit?
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