A lot has changed in America since our nation’s birth. In 1787, almost every state constitution required public officials to affirm that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. Today, in 2017, the halls of government, education, media, and the arts that were once officially or at least informally supportive of Christian belief may now be indifferent or even hostile to the teachings and values of Jesus.
I say this not to bemoan or lament a loss of “the good old days.” As Cameron pointed out in his sermon last week, God is sovereignly carrying out his plan. And if God has chosen to take away some of Christianity’s cultural power in America, it is because he wants to do something to renew his people and to reach those who are not yet his people. After all, Christianity is a religion built around the cross, and it doesn’t always thrive when Christians have too much national and cultural power.
At the same time, this new and increasingly true cultural reality does beg the question: how can you live as a faithful Christian in an unbelieving world? How do you live as a person of integrity in a society in which the cultural institutions may be opposed to your values and beliefs?
That’s the theme of the book of Daniel. In 597 BC, Daniel and many of his fellow Israelites were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon and suddenly found themselves living in a pluralistic and polytheistic culture with beliefs and values that were very different from their own. Some chose to accommodate their faith to their new culture. Others chose to separate from the culture lest their faith be compromised. But Daniel and his companions adopted a third way, a way in keeping with God’s instructions through the prophet Jeremiah (29:4-7). To paraphrase, God says:
Keep your identity. Remain a distinct and holy people. Grow in numbers. But engage where you are. Plant roots in your city. Seek the welfare of believers and non-believers alike. Share your faith, yes, but wherever you live, seek to make it a safer and more prosperous place than it otherwise would be. Care for the city of man on behalf of the city of God.
How can we live as a courageous community that is in the world and yet not of the world while remaining profoundly for the welfare of the world? How can we seek to be not an anti-culture but a counter-culture that exists to bless and serve the city in which we live?
Join us this Sunday as we consider how we, like Daniel and his friends, can live into this courageous calling!
Together in and for Christ,