Maybe I am wrong but it feel at the moment as though being able to compromise and not believing anything too strongly and tolerating everything, with every position open to negotiation is somehow heralded as a virtue.
Whereas integrity,constancy, courage and knowing your own mind, heart and opinions often is portrayed as intransigence.
Yet, as we discussed with our teenagers last night, we all have times when we compromise and times when we need to hold fast, the problem is we sometimes appear to hold fast when maybe we should compromise and compromise when we hold fast.
For me one of the things we rarely teach within our Churches (but I think we should, and maybe this is going to be a next sermon series!) is theological method, how to read the Bible, how we make ethical choices, how we hear and discern the spirits voice, hat other factors help us make our moral choices, Church tradition, personal experience or human wisdom…
We looked at Daniel (incredibly topical story in the midst of a refugee crisis) and thought here as a group of young men, taking from a culture based around living lives God’s way as a normal way of life and plunged into a culture completely different, with a world view diametrically opposed to theirs, and somehow they had to make sense of trying to live their lives Gods way in this alien environment.
Which is not dis-similar for most of us when we walk out of our Christian Churchy bubbles into our everyday lives at work, with family and many of our friends.
For Daniel and his friends this was a challenge. Firstly they accepted a Babylonian name and they accepted working for the King, but they drew the line at breaking God’s food-laws and so ate only vegetables. Yet they were the healthiest of the men from Israel.
Yet we see here a Biblical principal “God honours those who honour him”, reminded of Eric Liddell, the athlete in “Chariots of Fire”, ho refused to run on a Sunday, changed his race to honour his faith and won the 400 meters, rather than his preferred 100 meters, A case of God honouring those who honour him.
So, name and occupation they felt was okay to compromise (which when you think how important the names were to the people of the Old Testament was a big cultural compromise) but breaking God’s law was not something that could be compromised.
I also wonder, whether with this God looks at our hearts, and I believe that our desire to please him pleases him…
What of us? What is cultural and what is eternal? Should women where hats in church? Is it okay to have more than one wife/husband? Tattoo’s, bacon sandwhiches and rare steaks, or or not okay? What about sex? What about money? Do we drik alcohol? What do we think about smoking? What about our work that maybe is a bit exploitative internationally? What about working for the MOD? Should Christians use the F word? How about shopping on a Sunday? Fish on Friday (actually not in the Bible, but came up last night as a real issue for people)? Can Christians read and enjoy Harry Potter? Should Christians watch and enjoy Game of Thrones?
There are lots of issues, which we have to negotiate everyday, some culturally are very accepted in our culture some less so, yet worth pointing out (as demonstrated powerfully and horrifically with the second world war and the treatment of the Jews) “Wrong is still wrong if everyone is doing it, and right is still right if no one is doing it”.
I’m not pinning my opinions on the above topics, but worth thinking about, and then thinking “am I making the right and the best choices, are they the choices Jesus would make? Are they the choices that are spirit led and biblically endorsed, are they in line with God’s heart and his character? Do we have a peace about them?
Later on we see Daniel’s three friends refusing to bow down to the golden statue, even though the punishment for this was a gruesome death, I love their tenacity “the God we serve is able to save us, but even if he doesn’t we will not bow down and worship your statue”. The story sees an incredible miracle, where they are rescued from the flames and an Angel or even a pre-international appearance of Jesus appears within the flames walking with them (a great picture of Immanuel God with us even at the toughest and most difficult points in our life) and yet they were unharmed.
Later on in the book of Acts we as Christians are warned that we may face persecution but we will be given the words to say (I think this was certainly true in this case).
The teenagers explored that it often easier to go along with the crowd, often easier to keep your head down, no one wants to get laughed at, no one wants to get in trouble, and certainly in these cases doing the right thing requires people to be very brave.
-Bravery is a prayer we need to pray, I love the story in Acts where Peter and John get beaten up for proclaiming Christ, and their prayer with the believers is not a pity party, but rather “Lord give us boldness to keep going” -and the passage ends with the room shaking (Acts 4 -if you want to check it out).
Later on we look at Daniel getting persecuted for his righteousness and Godliness, which led other people to stab him in the back (again if we live for Christ people will want to pull us down and attack us, slag us off and do us harm) which leads to him being set up and being forced to choose between his life of privilege and luxury and his faith, he chooses to follow God, and this could have cost him his life when thrown into the lions dean. Again a great miracle story of God saving him from the Lions, a reminder that God is greater than our foes, our adversities and our situations (however dire they look) and although we may not physically be thrown into lions dens, sometimes it can feel like that. Sometimes even in Churchy situations you can wander into a hostile meeting and feel a bit like Daniel, but at these times we need to remember that God is greater than all we face.
So, my prayer for us all is bravery and courage, a heart to live a life pleasing to God, a life lived walking with him checking our footsteps as we follow him, learning what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ Jesus in an ever changing world. When to compromise and when to stand our ground.