When Daniel and his three friends were drug to Babylon, the authorities attempted to change their way of thinking, called them names, made sure they understood the exclusive way they worshipped was offensive, and may have attempted to confuse their gender – all over juicy meat and sparkling wine. However, true to the one true God, they didn’t compromise in many astounding ways recounted in the Biblical book of Daniel. We need to learn the lessons of what it takes to excel in exile now before our passports say “Babylon.” If you haven’t noticed, we’re not in Jerusalem any more (and to make sure we’re Biblical I assert, “yet!”).
No matter which of the current Presidential front runners gains 270 electoral votes, we will have elected an executive who unashamedly wears a brand of nativism, socialism or ever-evolving liberalism. Brothers and sisters, there really isn’t a “lesser evil” available. Any of these individuals will be the next President of the United States. “Pastor, don’t you believe we ought to pray for them?” Absolutely, but I also believe King prayed for establishment segregationists, Bonhoeffer for Nazis, Peter and Paul for Nero and John for Domitian.
Regardless of whom will claim their new address as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at 12:01 PM EST on January 20th, we will be living next door and going to work with the millions who voted for each current candidate with unbroken fidelity and potential fanaticism. True, other millions will have simply “settled” for the one they voted for but that’s the best we can hope for. We are called to love those neighbors and speak the truth in love.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Sojourners? Exiles? Our primary citizenship and permanent residency is not the United States of America or the state in which you now reside, it’s in the New Jerusalem. We must live with this hope and expectation in order to maintain hopefulness and any confidence things and people can change here. We are local ambassadors of this Kingdom, every one of us and there is a place for speaking as prophets but especially as heralds of the good news of the True King. Too Heavenly minded? Ask C.S. Lewis,
“If you read history you will find that the Christians begin the most for the present world are just the ones that thought the most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot. in the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark one Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so in effective in this. And that Heaven and you’ll get the earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you’ll get neither.”
We have a mandate to speak the truth in love and to love our neighbors without compromising His truth. We are commissioned to make disciples and preach the gospel even if it means appearing in chains and appealing to Caesar. To do that, we need help. Our primary need is the word of God. There is a reason why scripture is replete with passages written in exile and amidst persecution. Also, there is much to be learned from those who have endured living in hostile environments in very recent history. This why I recently recommended reading biographies on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both of these men understood living in exile and they did not have to change their physical address. These men and the millions they represented had an insatiable desire for truth yet lived in environments that literally brought about their physical deaths, and one of those places was not Germany under the Third Reich, but the United States of America.
Let us be “wise as serpents, innocent as doves” and “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,holding fast to the word of life…” Philippians 2:14-16.
Daniel and his friends knew they could control what came in and out of their mouths and hearts, and that’s what they did by the grace of God. May we do the same.
May God help us, and may God help the United States of America.