Daniel opens in a radical way. We read that God has permitted the pagan king to sack Jerusalem (the City of God) and remove temple artifacts and tools for use in his own temple worship. This is most undesirable and despicable from a Hebrew’s perspective at that time. The whole covenant with Jehovah was centered, in their mind, around the land and the temple. God is permitting both to be pillaged and plundered. It was not God who quit on the deal, but Judah. If you read Isaiah 1:11-20 you will discover three reasons why God allowed this MASSIVE CHANGE to occur.
- Disobedience through idolatry.
- Disregard for the spirit of the law.
- Disrespect through passionless worship and routine sacrifice.
We have all experienced change. Some have experienced massive change. In my lifetime, I have seen massive technology, developed space programs, fall of communism, incredible health breakthroughs, and more. I cannot imagine what it was like for my grandparents! While change affords us many things, there is no doubt that it can be uncomfortable, uncompromising, and even uncivilized! Daniel and his friends were drug off from home, saw the total destruction of their way of life and watched as those hideous Babylonians entered the sacred temple.
We, like they, have experienced a changing culture. However, before we rail against “culture” we must understand what it is.
Culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
We all make up our culture. For the follower of Christ, it is less about screaming at the culture and more about transforming the culture in which we have taken part in shaping. For some, you can identify with Daniel and all of the newness he experienced:
- New Location
- New Language
- New Literature
- New Law
- New Tolerances Demanded
- New Allegiance Desired
I don’t have to go into detail here. I am sure you get what is happening. Many of us are being criticized for not accepting a similar newness in our life. While we look at our world with a disdain, let us remember that it is becoming what we are allowing it to become. Christianity has become slack. We rested on the laurels of the last century; refusing to adjust.
What do we do?
Niebuhr wrote that we have several options when it comes to Christ and the culture.
- Embrace it (Christ in Culture) – somehow we are to just find the positive in everything and attribute it to Christ. The problem with this method is that there are intolerable actions taking place when compared to scripture. We cannot just flow through with emotion. There is a foundational element called the Word of God. It is our prime directive.
- Separate from it (Christ above Culture) – here we would see Christians retreating from all things worldly. This group feels the world is so bad that Christians cannot get dirty in it. Many here will feel they are above the “culture” rather than remembering they are a part of “culture’s” development by their very presence.
- Transform it (Christ the Transformer of Culture) – this view sees Christians proclaiming the Gospel in such a way that it begins to shape the conscience of our neighborhoods. Therefore, it is presented pout of love for people rather than hate for actions. We must bow to Jesus as he pursues people in His way and His timing. We will practice the Gospel so that it becomes second-nature in all areas of our life.
I believe we see Daniel embracing his new reality and attempting to transform the culture around him rather than just complaining. May we do the same. May we go and transform who and what we can!