We recently enjoyed our Fellowship day, themed around lessons from Daniel. I led a few introductory thoughts on Daniel, and as I read through the early chapters, I was struck by how fundamentally Daniel influenced those around him: a succession of Kings, one notable Queen, senior government officials, and prison guards. All were moved to accept Daniel’s God as their God. The real challenge for me is how much those who come into contact with me but don’t share my beliefs and values are influenced by me (and the answer is not much)! We spent the rest of the day thinking about how we can focus on ‘glowing and sowing’ both individually and as a group in prayer, praise, and profession of our faith (in writing, drawing and eating…).
I began my thoughts in Daniel at the start of the story, when he is plucked from a privileged upbringing in Israel and placed in the royal court for a Babylonian ‘fast-track management programme’ in order to be fit to serve the King. From the start, Daniel was uncompromising in his service of God: he ‘resolved not to defile himself…’ (Dan 1:9). Although it is possible that the meat on offer was ‘unclean’ and therefore illegal under the Jewish law, it is quite possible that Daniel’s objection was not based in the Jewish law and therefore, this was a matter of conscience for him (much like the ‘meat offered to idols’ debate in the NT - 1 Corinthians 8). Similarly, much later in his life, when Daniel’s enemies tricked the King to ban worshiping any God overtly, Daniel could very easily have closed his windows and worshiped in private (Dan 6:10). Daniel’s three friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) were also uncompromising in their religious practice. When challenged to bow before an idol or face death by burning, their response to the King was faithful-bordering-on-bolshie (Dan 3:16-18). Contrast Naaman here, who when cured of his skin disease requested a compromise from God that he may continue to bow down to idols to please his master, even though his heart wasn’t in it (2 Kings 5:18). On these three occasions (Daniel’s refusal to eat the King’s meat, his worshiping with the windows open, and Daniel’s friends’ refusal to bow down to the idol), it probably would not have been wrong for them to take a more measured, compromised line. But my point is that their uncompromising faith made a deep impression on those around them. King Nebuchadnezzar himself seems to have been converted several times over (Dan 2:47; 3:38), a Persian Queen was extremely impressed by Daniel (Dan 5:10 - I’d love to know the back-story here!), and a Persian King was moved to yet another royal declaration for God (Dan 6:25).
The most impressive aspect of Daniel’s character to me is that he seems to have had a message and a lifestyle, and didn’t much care what anybody else thought of that! This impressed those around him that did not share his beliefs. I wonder whether we are too willing to bend to societal norms, meaning that God’s message can become a little diluted? I’m not advocating ramming Christianity down people’s throats - that won’t get us anywhere - but I could certainly be more open with my Christian values, and I suspect it wouldn’t get me thrown into a fiery furnace or a den of lions!
We spent the rest of the day thinking about the idea of ‘glowing and sowing’. The most effective way we can spread God’s good news of salvation is by living a life in God’s service that is attractive to others. There were a number of workshops around the theme of how we present ourselves as a church, exploring writing, design, food, prayer, and praise. The hope is that this will culminate in some outward focused activities later in the year. Watch this space…