Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Daniel, Red Cups & Good Christian Citizens

Well, if you are at all on social media this week, you've probably seen an uproar from Christians concerning Starbuck's red cups. To boycott or not to boycott, that is the question.

And, boy are Christians weighing in on that question!

In Periscopes. On FB and Twitter and Instagram. In "open letters to CEOs" on blogs. In "open letters to Christians" on blogs.

I want to expel a rather unladylike snort, as I wonder if it is possible these days to stand up for what we believe in without being odious and obnoxious. Without being polarizing to believers and unbelievers alike.

Obviously, the answer to that would be that it is possible. But, looking at social media and general evangelical behavior these days, it would seem like we think it is impossible.

This week I was studying Daniel. The prophet, of lion's den fame, from the Bible. This Daniel was a good citizen, above reproach, under a horrific government. The tyrant of choice in his day would chop up you and your family into tiny bits if you disagreed with him. Yet Daniel managed to walk the line of a good citizen while still being an exemplary citizen of God's kingdom.

The first Daniel story we come across has to do with Daniel living in the palace, training to be a part of Nebuchadnezzar's government. As a very young man, he made the decision to not defile himself with the king's meat-however he thought it would defile him. But, he didn't stage an obnoxious protest. He didn't flood social media with harangues. He approached his direct authority, and respectfully laid out his case. He proposed a workable solution (a 10 day test period) that acknowledged the fact that his authority was literally putting his own life at risk by not insisting  Daniel eat what he was supposed to eat. The test worked. Daniel was healthy, smart, and ended up being promoted to positions of authority in the Babylonian kingdom. He lasted 70 years working in various positions in that government. In fact, he even outlasted the Babylonian kingdom. His position continued in the new government-the Medes.

The last "story" we have of Daniel is when he is an old man. Another decree comes down from the king. His loyalty to the government and to his God, are once again juxtaposed against each other.

Daniel chooses loyalty to God and God's kingdom. He isn't obnoxious. The reason his enemies even came up with this particular scheme was because there was nothing else they could accuse Daniel of-except his loyalty to his God.  In his reaction to this edict, Daniel doesn't all of a sudden give occasion for his enemies to accuse him of anything character-wise. 

He just prays. He just does what he always did. He doesn't flaunt his position and actions. He doesn't hide either. And he faces the music for his actions.

This all leads me to think that it is possible to stand up for our Judaeo-Christian beliefs without being obnoxious or odious.

If Daniel did it, so can we.

What might that look like in today's USA culture?

-There is a difference between truth offending and behavior offending. Lines have gotten a bit blurred between those two things. 

What if our first reaction was to send Starbucks (or insert any other company, etc. here ______)  a direct email or letter if we are unhappy with something? Most companies take feedback seriously. By contacting the company directly, as opposed to through blasting it on social media, we show respect. We are acknowledging the challenges businesses face. Any business is trying to make a profit, and every business makes decisions based on how the decision will affect their bottom line. This is not necessarily of the devil. It's business, and it's practical. By contacting the company directly, we can acknowledge the challenging side of the business while still respectfully stating our opinion. Is our motive to destroy their business, or share our stance and even disappointment? Is our goal to affect change or to destroy a company? 

We have the right of free speech here in the United States. That is a huge privilege, and one that we can take for granted or use in a not God-honoring way. 

Respectful not odious. Realistic about challenges, while voicing opinion or conviction. Principled but not offensive. 

-I do not believe nor advocate that we live in a Christian country. I would not even state that we were ever a Christian country. But, it is rather naive to think that our country was not founded on Judaeo-Christian morals. Because it was. Our founding fathers were greatly influenced by both the Bible, and by ancient Greek and Roman literature and government. The ancients were their literature and helped mold their opinions, and thus the laws they established for us.

I don't think we are a Christian country but I do think that Christian citizens can lobby and vote for laws that honor God and His principles. 

"We can’t look to companies, governments and schools to 'keep Christ in Christmas'. It’s not their job; it’s the role of the church. It’s the body of Christ that needs to reflect the character of Christ in a lost world." (source)

I agree with that statement, and I think that Christians in the United States can reflect the character of Christ both by standing up for what we believe and by exercising our rights as citizens of the United States. Free speech, voting, bearing of arms. I think that Christians can even (and should-if that is what God calls you to do) be members of the government and use their positions to the glory of God, and for good. 

I don't think those are contrary positions. I think if Daniel could do that, so can I. It is possible to be  good, principled, gun-toting, voting, evangelical Christian citizens of the United States and of God's kingdom without being odious and offensive. We can affect good in our country. We can make a practical difference in our world.

I have friends on polar opposite sides of the political issue. And I'm not talking political parties either. I have friends who think that it isn't right for Christians to be involved in politics at all. I also have friends who think that it is our duty as Christians to exercise our civic rights.

Personally, I don't think it is my Christian duty to exercise my civic rights. I think it is my civic responsibility to exercise the political rights and privileges that I have as a United States citizen.

I don't think that stance contradicts Scripture at all.

I also believe it is absolutely my Christian responsibility to stand up for Biblical truth. Whether politically or socially or religiously. For me, it boils down to when, where and how to stand up for truth, not if to stand up. In my (limited) experience, I've found stances and debates on social media to be polarizing with very little change or impact for good. 

-Dealing with social and political issues does not (necessarily) mean that we have lost our eternal perspective. Actually, having an eternal perspective is the only thing that gives these pursuits any value beyond the immediate and temporary. 

Good citizens of God's eternal kingdom should have the reputation of being the best citizens of their passport country. Yes, there will be times when our loyalty to God's kingdom will not work with our loyalty to our passport citizenship, and we will have to obey God, rather than man. 

Frankly, that is less often than we'd like to think. And, I am very thankful for that. I count it a privilege to be a citizen of the United States. I count it a privilege to have the freedoms and rights that we have. 

-We have privileges that Daniel didn't have. That Paul didn't have. We need to exercise these for good.

As we exercise these freedoms, and fight the encroachments on our freedoms, we need to keep in view God's kingdom. Even as we experience increasing opposition to our principles, we need to keep an eternal perspective. This does not mean to roll over and give up.

It does mean that we should not forget a basic tenet that is evident in the book of Daniel. God's sovereignty.

God is sovereign. He rules over all people, nations, time, kingdoms. He is supreme. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom. His kingdom preceeded and outlasted the empires of Daniel's day. God was in control then. He is still in control now. 

We also need to avail ourselves of the weapons that Daniel and Paul had. We have access to the same weapon.

I'm talking about prayer. Prayer should be our first resort when situations like red cups or same-sex marriage comes up. We should pray before we react. What does God want us to do in these situations? Our actions and reactions should bring glory to God. So what exactly does He want those actions and reactions to be? 

There is no way to know if we aren't prostrating ourselves before Him in prayer. If we aren't listening to His words in the Bible.

That's the way to affect true change, to be in sync with God's plan.

That's the way to be a good citizen of both God's eternal kingdom and our passport country.

I'll raise a (red) glass to that!