Public Square

“Will We Conform or Transform?”: Learning from the Life of Daniel about Living in Today’s Culture

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Yesterday, writing about God’s sovereignty after the election, I quoted a few passages from the book of Daniel. Daniel continues to be a model for how Christians should live in the world today, and I want to explore his life more in depth. Like Daniel and the other Hebrew exiles, you may feel like a stranger in a strange land. If you take your Christian worldview seriously, you will find yourself at odds with the surrounding culture, just like Daniel.

Yet, like Daniel, we must not withdraw from the world in which we live. We must engage it in obedience to God’s call on our lives, working for his glory and the common good.

Learning from the Life of Daniel

As a public servant in Babylon, Daniel sought to use his gifts to transform the culture around him. He wanted Babylonian life to be shaped by the values of the one true God. He worked for the flourishing of all of Babylon.

Daniel was able to identify where his values and Babylonian values overlapped. Through Daniel’s conscientious work, his Babylonian overlords became convinced of the excellence of Daniel’s vision of their shared future.

There was a limit, however, to what Daniel was willing to do. When his government demanded ultimate loyalty, he refused, choosing instead what appeared to be certain death in the lion’s den. God saved Daniel and continued to use him as a great witness within the empire.

Will We Conform or Transform?

Like Daniel, we have a decision to make. Will we join those who conform, or those who renew and transform? Will we, like Daniel, embrace our biblical call to become agents, models and witnesses to shalom?

We will never create full shalom in this current age. Such fulfillment awaits the age to come, when Jesus will establish everlasting shalom in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Still, like the exiles in Babylon, we can build toward that future. The work we do in the here and now is important to God and serves as a signpost to point others to the New City, the City of God, where all of God’s children will live one day in perfect shalom.

During the exile to Babylon, the best and brightest of Jerusalem were then taken into captivity and made to march almost 1,000 miles to the great city of Babylon. Even in their oppression, God was calling his people to take dominion by reweaving shalom, working for the shalom of the city of Babylon. Again, Daniel is the clearest example of this.

Like Daniel we are called to work for the shalom of the city, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). We are to do this in everything we do, especially in our vocational calling. We believe in a coming age when shalom will be completely restored, an age without sin and injustice. May we eagerly work in this world to bring about glimpses of that wonderful world to come.

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