In the book of Daniel, young Daniel and his friends resist temptation to be defiled by the Babylonian culture, no matter the consequences.
If I was taken captive and brought to a foreign land, I think my main instinct would be survival: hunker down, lay low, stay out of the limelight. But for Daniel and his friends, survival wasn’t proof of success. God intended more for them than survival and allowed them to rise to places of influence and power in Babylonian culture. He made them strong and dangerous.
We’re rounding out 18 months of COVID, cultural division, anger, and misinformation. It can seem easy to take on a survivalist identity, especially as we’re inundated with memes, ads, and messages from our culture that try to teach us sin is okay and it’s actually evil to point out that sin is wrong. And the daily bombardment can be very subtle. Consider how Satan twisted the truth in the Garden to deceive Eve. His message sounded reasonable, and even seemed to contain truth.
My kids were excited to watch the Olympics this year, which we did, in a limited capacity. Limited, because you couldn’t watch for more than five minutes without being fed cultural lies packaged and celebrated as beautiful truths. We learned we were supposed to celebrate men switching genders and weightlifting as women, while commercial breaks reminded us to celebrate same sex couples.
I’ve felt compelled to engage my kids on these difficult topics rather than avoid them, and talk frankly about the tensions we’re facing as Jesus followers in this season. Have you ever discussed transgenderism with your 9 year old while driving down the road? We have now. These conversations can get pretty raw as we discuss abortion, race issues, equality, COVID-19, capitalism and socialism, as well as moral quandaries we have about political engagement.
Our kids may be getting tired of our repetition, but we tell them continually about the inclination of the human heart towards evil. How Satan’s lies can sound reasonable so they need to be wary. But how Jesus has overcome the world and that he lives in us. And the Bible teaches us that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world, so they not only can have hope, they can courageously and confidently stand strong in this dark world.
The church has always been resisted. In the first century, it was made illegal. It was persecuted. And yet, it grew because Jesus is Lord. And as our culture becomes increasingly hostile to Christianity, we must not retreat. We must not merely survive. God has called us to so much more than that. We’re called to advance with hope and courageously take ground.
So how do we engage the world but not fall captive to it? How do we walk that line?
It’s important not to assume that we’ll all see the cultural lies clearly, particularly as next generations come of age. We have to talk about the things the world is already talking about. And we’ve got to do it Biblically, counter-culturally, and in community.
One of those topics is social justice. The world is talking about it in terms of equality, justice, and love, which are words we Christians love. And yet, there’s a spin of deception in each of these terms as the world redefines them. As pastors, we are convinced that we need to invest time digging into the topic of justice. So much so that we’re interrupting our series on the Gospel of John for the next 5 weeks in order to talk about it.
Can I ask you to lean into the conversation over the next 5 Sundays? It’s important not to miss any of the weeks, as the logic in each sermon will build on the previous week’s content. And join in on the conversation in your small group and families via discussion questions each week. We can’t wait to dive into this topic with you this Sunday.
-Travis, on behalf of the Summitview Pastors