[April 13]—The Ultimate Nonconformists

Daniel 3:1-18

            I do have to admit, I’m pretty reluctant to talk about today’s passage. Not that I dislike the story—On the contrary, it’s one of my favorites. My main issue is that the story is one of the most famous in the Bible, so if you know anything about the Bible at all, it’s going to be difficult to say anything you haven’t heard before.
            I frequently have a good laugh at alleged nonconformists. They rail against “sheeple,” by which they usually mean the population at large which disagrees with them. If most people believe X, then they go out of their way to believe and proclaim (usually very obnoxiously) that they believe in non-X, and they completely disparage anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The ironic thing is that they usually congregate with people who agree with them, who dress like them, and who have the same tastes in movies, TV, music, etc. They want to be nonconformists, and in their efforts they end up looking exactly like their peers.
            Take Hollywood for example. Every year or so there’s a new movie that’s supposed to be controversial and “brave” and “daring,” usually by advancing what the vast majority of people in Hollywood support. So if a movie sanctions and promotes abortion, then to them that’s laudable. But of course it’s not brave or particularly courageous. The movie’s producers and directors and actors are presenting a worldview which is completely in sync with their peers. They’re going to get nothing but applause from the people they care about. Now, what if an actor came out as a Pro-Life Christian in Hollywood? What do you think would happen to their career? What do you think would be the reaction of their fellows in the entertainment industry?
            That brings us to today’s narrative. The king decided to build a statue, and in true kingly fashion proclaimed a law that everyone, small and great, must bow down before his statue. Did most people really believe that the statue was a god to be worshipped? Of course not. But if he knew this, he didn’t care.
            Notice the tolerant spirit he displayed. He didn’t really care what you believed or worshipped, as long as you bowed down when the music played.
            How easy it would be to go along to get along! A believer in the true God could easily rationalize it to himself: “As long as I worship the Lord in my heart, what does it matter, really? I’ll just give in on this one minor point, and let God have everything else in my life.”
            But that wasn’t good enough for the Holy One of Israel, and the One who was the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He'd made it clear: His people are to bow to no other gods. Ever.
            On a side note, we do have to ask: Where was Daniel in this story? Was he exempt because of his high position? Was he traveling? In a moment of weakness, did he bow? We don’t know. We do know in his later years he was perfectly willing to lay down his life as a matter of principle of worship. I hope there’s a legitimate reason why he’s not mentioned here among his friends. I also know quite well that if he did bow, I'm certainly not his judge, and I can’t claim I would've done any better in his shoes.
            It’s quite a poignant and dramatic scene, isn’t it? The whole kingdom is bowing before this statue under threat of death, except for three lonely young men. They stand tall. They’re respectful, yet ultimately defy the king, all because they love their Lord better than life itself. I especially love the way they answer the king’s demands: The God we worship is certainly able to rescue us, your Majesty. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” It gives me chills just picturing it.
            Wow, do we ever need this spirit today! I understand that it’s possible to fall off in the other direction, becoming a monk in fact if not in name. Some sincere believers give so much emphasis on nonconformity that they still let the world control them. If the world tells them to do X, they’ll do non-X just because X is popular. That’s still letting the world control what you do.
            But I think it’s much more common among Christians in America to conform to the world waaaaay too much. We watch the same TV shows, we go to the same movies, we adhere to the same politics, and generally lead the same lifestyle as those around us who aren't followers of Jesus. I think we could all stand to catch a little more of the spirit of these young men.
             I know I do.

Father God, how often do I let the world determine my direction! How easy it is to go along with what everyone else is doing! Please give me the courage and wisdom to do what’s right, to make a stand when everyone around me is bowing down to a false god. Please be with me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment