It’s no secret we live in a culture that is becoming increasingly more corrupt.
Sin is rampant and excused. God’s truth is being distorted.
And as we watch this unfold in front of us, it would be easy to get stuck thinking that this means we should disengage from culture and protect ourselves and our families.
But this is not what God has called us to do. In fact, I think he’s called many of us to live like Daniel in the midst of this culture.
I think there are three things we can learn from the example of Daniel.
Daniel was a Hebrew, and his Hebrew name (Daniel) meant “God is my judge.” But scripture tells us he was also given a Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, which means “Baal is my God.” When the Babylonians invaded Israel around 586 BC, their intention was to take and retain power by integrating the Israelites into their culture.
The king of the Babylonians at the time (King Nebuchadnezzar) focused especially on the elite, the leaders of culture.
If he could change them, he figured, he could change everyone.
It was a great plan on his part, but Israel had other plans. Hananiah, a leading prophet at the time, was recorded as saying, “Don’t move into the city. We’re believers, and as such, we’ve got no business in that wicked, pagan city. So just stay out, and pray against the city. God will judge the city, and we’ll be back on top in a matter of years.”
Does this sound familiar to you? It does to me. It sounds like the way many of us approach today’s culture. We have a “hunker down, and hold on” attitude. “Distance yourself as much as possible. Jesus is coming back soon, and we just need to make sure we aren’t corrupted before then.”
But is this really what God wants?
Listen to what God says to the Israelites who are fighting Babylonian captivity:
“This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:4-9)
This sounds like a completely different story, doesn’t it? And while it may seem counterintuitive to those of us who think we should be protecting ourselves from popular culture, I would argue that God is calling many of us to rise up within our culture like Daniel, or at least to live in the culture in a way that brings glory to His name.
What does that look like? I think there are three things.