If you travel internationally, you will find some culture shock to be sure. Every culture has their own customs and rituals. Some of them would make us scratch our heads and maybe even wince a little at the very thought. For example, I cannot watch a Spanish bullfight. There are festivals in Thailand where participants in the festival cause all kinds of bodily harm to themselves. One man was slicing his tongue with a knife. Another man was jabbing his cheeks with sharp objects. Most travelers and tourists would probably be quite horrified to watch this festival and wonder “WHY?”.
Did you know you can eat rat on a stick in some countries like Thailand and Africa? Not city rats but wild field rats on a stick. In China and in many Chinese restaurants around the world, chicken feet is served regularly. It all boils down to what you are used to and then to what you can expect.
Culture affects each one of us in profound ways. It influences what we wear, what we eat, how we think about others and ourselves, and even how we perceive and interpret the world around us. Culture is relentless and powerful and has the ability to shape our attitudes, expectations and what we accept as normal.
Daniel was no doubt suffering from culture shock. All the threads tying them to the past had to be broken. That life back in Israel and the values of God’s people, which they had brought to the Babylon were dismantled one by one. In their place were strange rules and practices and different food. In chapter 1 of Daniel we read about how he was required to eat foods that perhaps had been offered to a pagan god. He chose to remain consecrated to God and not participate in those meals. Another way to say it is he made a choice, a deliberate decision to stand with God.
Daniel lived in a culture that was contrary to the values of The Kingdom of God and that the consequences of resisting that culture were serious. Daniel was under tremendous pressure to conform to the culture around him. Remember he was on foreign soil, dealing with the culture shock and knowing that the king had the power of life and death over him. Still Daniel was willing to take great risks. He was willing to sacrifice important things for himself. He was was even willing to sacrifice his career for the values of The Kingdom of God.
Are we willing to sacrifice great things for the Lord? Are you willing to lose your job for the Lord? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort and your dreams of success for the values of the kingdom of God? Those are the choices Daniel was making.
Daniel understood and knew the will of God. To know that eating that food would have been against the Word of God, he already understood the Scriptures. He knew that the Scriptures of that time prohibited eating food offered to idols. We need to know the word of God to deal with our culture today. Rather than thinking of it as a debit account, where you are putting in your card and taking out the emotional boost you need for the day, to instead regard studying the Bible as a savings account where you make small deposits on a regular basis. And these small deposits are so that you are growing in your knowledge of the Scripture in such a way that you are building a more comprehensive knowledge. Gaining Bible literacy requires allowing our study to have a cumulative effect — across weeks, months, years — to build greater knowledge of the Bible, but really, when we study the Bible, we are looking for greater knowledge of God himself.
Daniel, again and again was willing to take risks, to put himself on the line, and trust that God would make up for his own deficiencies and come through in the end, regardless of the culture around him.
1. How have you experienced our culture trying to change you? Why is it impossible for Christians to escape or avoid culture?
2. Identify some of the ways culture shapes our attitudes about Christianity. What kind of a list did you come up with? Were there any surprises?
3. Our culture elevates what is new and trendy. How does this shape the way we view faithfulness and perseverance?
4. What dangers exist for Christians as we become more involved in our culture?
5. Pray and ask God for wisdom to deal with our culture and knowing when to take a stand.