Suppose you were snatched from your own home by hostile invaders bent on destroying your country. What would you do? Would you stay true to your faith in a foreign land?
That’s just what happened to scores of young people living in Israel during the Babylonian captivity. You can read about some of them in the book of Daniel.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were young Hebrew men when the Babylonians forced them into exile. The Babylonians overran Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, in about the 6th or 7th century before Christ. They took many captives, including the brightest and best of Israel’s young people. They wanted strong, intelligent, well educated young people so they could teach them about Babylonian literature, culture, and administrative practices. The Babylonian invaders trained these captives to be bureaucrats throughout the far flung Babylonian kingdom.
These captives had to figure out how to live out their faith in a hostile foreign land, far from others with whom they could keep up Jewish traditions. It was relatively easy to remain faithful when they were surrounded by other Jews—how would they hold up without that social support?
Our Current Dilemma
Christians in our culture face a similar dilemma. In some ways it was much easier to live out the Christian faith in America 30 or 40 years ago. The surrounding culture was more supportive and accepting of Christian values back then. People who accepted the scriptures as the word of God were much more the norm. We don’t have that same cultural support anymore, not even in our own country.
The loss of cultural support for our values is never good, but in some ways there is a good side to it. People of faith can no longer depend upon cultural crutches to help us. We can’t take for granted that our faith will be blessed and accepted wherever we turn. We’re forced to ask ourselves, “Is the faith that we espouse true and credible? Or is it just a collection of myths handed on to us? Do we truly embrace it? What are the essentials of our faith, and which beliefs are merely a part of our cultural trappings? Do I have the courage to live out my faith in a hostile world?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced exactly that kind of test. Would they live out their faith honorably in a culture that didn’t support it?
I’ll continue looking at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in my next post, when I’ll explain why their response to the Babylonian king’s summons was so risky.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from Dr. Sloan’s address to the students of Houston Baptist University on February 18, 2009.