As a family, we went to check out a new church this past Sunday…always an interesting proposition, but much more so given the events of the past week. The teaching was based on Daniel 6 (the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den) which was used as an example of how we should comport ourselves when living in a world with vastly different world views. I found the message useful, and I thought I would share my notes and thoughts here. My goal is not to present a sermon or a Bible lesson, though the lessons are drawn from the biblical narrative. I love the story of Daniel, and you ought to read it if you haven’t. My goal here is to present some of the lessons learned from the story of Daniel that are relevant to the world we live in today.
I believe that, no matter what your political or theological beliefs may be, there is much to be learned here. So, here are five things taken from the life of Daniel that should be a priority when living with and engaging with people who believe vastly different things than you. I have added my own thoughts on each. And, lest you be tempted like most of us to think “yes, the world would be a better place if OTHER PEOPLE did these things,” I challenge you to replace the phrase OTHER PEOPLE with the word I:
1. Respond with Maturity.
How we treat people matters. Our words matter. Our character matters. We live in a world where people are emboldened by the screens they sit behind to say things in the most unkind and least graceful ways. We grieve a world where “everyone gets a trophy” then throw a temper tantrum when things don’t go our way. We point fingers and refuse to accept responsibility. We assume the worst and demand proof. We accept anything that tickles our ears as true and write off truth as fake when it doesn’t match our opinion. We act like toddlers and excuse our actions with phrases like, “but what about when they…” If we want to see change in the world, we have to start acting like adults rather than just demanding that other people do. As a side note, I believe that empathy is a sign of maturity, and we could do with a lot more of walking in other people’s shoes these days.
2. Act with Integrity
People need to see us living our lives, our kids need to see us living our lives, with integrity to the point where people will express that, “I may not agree with him/her, but I do respect their integrity.” But, integrity is more than that. Integrity is how we act when no one is watching. No one is above reproach, but we must strive to do the right thing merely because it is the right thing to do. We have to stop excusing our actions, and the actions of others, because the ends justify the means. If it is wrong for “them” to do it, it is also wrong for “us” to do it.
3. Make Jesus a Priority
For my Christian brothers and sisters, the point here is clear. Everything we do should be done to shine a light upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He should be at the center of our every motive and decision (no doubt, none of do this perfectly, and that is why we are so grateful for grace).
That said, for all of my friends who believe differently (and I am blessed to have many), I think there is something in this point for you as well. No matter your particular set of beliefs, we would all do well to remember that there is something bigger than us out there. If we remember our relative smallness, it is easier not to let disagreements and differences of opinion snowball out of control.
4. Practice Humility
I joke with my kids sometimes that I am the most humble person I’ve ever known! In the end humility is about valuing others more than ourselves and recognizing that there is a possibility (no matter how remote) that we could be wrong. If you’re like me (and you probably are), you have been wrong in the past, and you will be wrong in the future. Of course we have strongly held beliefs, but when we listen (really listen) to others, we should at least entertain the possibility that they might be right. If nothing else, it will soften the edges on your reply.
5. Lead with Transparency
Suspicion grows in the dark. Hate grows in the dark. Conspiracy grows in the dark. Division grows in the dark, and fear grows in the dark. Transparency in our lives is the first step in letting in the light and driving out the dark. Transparency is hard though. Transparency take courage, especially when mixed with a healthy dose integrity, maturity and humility. Your transparency may very well have consequences. It most certainly did for Daniel (read the story), but in the end transparency is the window through which the rest of the world catches a glimpse of our integrity.
So, next time you are incensed about a post on Facebook, the actions of big tech companies or the hypocrisy of a politician (no matter the party)….next time you’re ready to hit post on that comment or send that nasty email or “put so and so on blast,” I encourage you to think about the story of Daniel and ask yourself:
- Am I being mature?
- Am I acting with integrity?
- Am I focused on Jesus / the bigger picture?
- Am I demonstrating humility?
- Am I being transparent?
There is no doubt that our country and our society is more divided than it has been in recent history, but change has to begin with us. It is easy to blame politicians in a far away city or that guy on twitter who always thinks he’s right for all of the problems with our society, but we are all culpable, and as I tell my kids, the only person’s actions that you truly have control over are your own.
Shout out to Summit Baptist Church and Pastor Mark Glenn for the message that served as the basis for this post.