If I asked someone in your family or neighborhood or place of employment or school about your faith, what would they say? Would those who interact with you regularly know that you are a follower of Jesus? Do you stand out as a Christian or do you blend in with the values, attitudes and conduct of unbelievers? It appears to me that too many Christians live like everyone else and fail to distinguish themselves from the sinful values of our age. In contrast, the Bible offers us numerous examples of living distinctly. One of my favorite examples is Daniel who not only survived exile in Babylon, but thrived.
In chapter one of Daniel, he and his three friends were taken to Babylon to serve the king. They were likely Hebrew royalty. It is also possible they were made eunuchs when brought to Babylon. They had lost their home, very likely lost contact with their families, been separated from the location of their faith and possibly been maimed physically. If any group of people could have justified compromise and sinful behavior, it would have been Daniel and his friends. Yet, they refused to compromise. They stood out. Daniel 1 reveals four specific ways that Daniel and his friends were distinct from the pagan culture around them.
- Daniel and his friends were distinct in name (v. 6). Daniel’s name means, “God is my judge.” Hananiah means “Yahweh is gracious.” Mishael means “what is what God is?” (the idea being that there is no god like the God of Israel). Azariah means “Yahweh has helped.” Even when given new Babylonian names, they referred to themselves by their given Hebrew names that referenced the one true God. When people hear your name, do they think of God? If your given name does not specifically mean something Christian, we must still remember that we’ve been given the name of saint, believer, Christian. Do our names reflect the salvation we’ve been given?
- Daniel and his friends were distinct in conduct (vv. 8-16). Daniel and his friends were given the best food that the king of Babylon could offer. The food of the king would have included pork and horseflesh which were unclean for Hebrews. The meat and wine would also have been offered sacrificially to Babylonian gods connecting the foods to idolatry. These foods would have made Daniel and his friends unclean. Daniel resolved himself not to be defiled. Daniel suggested a diet of vegetables and water and wisely offered a timeframe for their looks to be tested. While I don’t necessarily think that what we eat should reflect that we are Christians, what we do should reflect our faith in Christ. Does your conduct (what you watch, listen to, how you spend your time, what you read) reflect the wickedness of the culture around us? Or does your conduct reflect Christ? Can those who know you best tell that you are a follower of Christ by your daily conduct?
- Daniel and his friends were distinct in worldview (vv. 17-21). Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah had the opportunity to learn and study at the locus of world power at that point in human history. They had the foundation of their biblical, Hebrew culture, but were introduced to many new ideas. I imagine that much of what they learned in Babylon was benign, while much was not. They were likely confronted with religious and philosophical ideas that were contrary to their childhood education in Jerusalem. Sounds a lot like public school, college and university campuses, doesn’t it? I don’t believe that sheltering ourselves or our children from false ideas is the solution to the worldview conflict around us. But I do believe we need to subordinate false ideas appropriately underneath a biblical worldview. Don’t be afraid of reading things that are false or being exposed to untruths. But become an expert in what is genuine and true–God’s Word. One of the surest ways to develop a biblical worldview is to read, study, memorize and meditate on God’s Word. To parents and grandparents reading this, if your children and grandchildren are not taught biblical truth regularly, then they will not learn to think Christianly. It is our responsibility to embed biblical truth into their minds and hearts. Thank goodness Daniel and his friends had a solid biblical worldview in place before being taken to Babylon.
- Daniel and his friends were distinct in God’s favor (vv. 9, 14, 17, 19-20). We are currently living in a post-Christian era. No longer does the expression of Western Civilization reflect a biblical worldview. Media, politics and education reflect views on humanity, sexuality, philosophy, history and technology that are at best non-Christian and often anti-Christian. So how do we live distinct as Christians in a post-Christian world? We pursue the favor of God, not of man. Daniel and his friends experienced God’s blessing and favor even when their views contrasted greatly with the prevailing culture. Do you care what others think of your lifestyle and opinions or what God thinks? Being favored from God occurs when we receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and live underneath the truths of the gospel.
Living in these ways will lead us to live distinctly in our post-Christian age.