An Alabama county official refused to lower flags to half-staff this week in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, saying that doing so would signal a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism. While his “soul ached for the victims” and his family prayed “for them and for the world,” he did not feel it was a “valid circumstance” for lowering the flag to half-staff.
A student is given the assignment of writing a term paper defending evolution. As a Christ follower, they feel it will violate their convictions.
An employee is told to fly a rainbow flag at half-staff in front of their office building to signify mourning for the victims of the massacre in Orlando, FL. While they mourn the tragedy, they wonder if the action means they approve of a lifestyle that goes against their biblical convictions.
In the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympic athlete Eric Liddell is scheduled to compete in the 100 meters during the 1924 Paris Olympics. However, he discovers that the preliminary heat is scheduled for a Sunday. Being a Sabbatarian, he refuses because it goes against his Christian convictions. The dialogue below reveals how the British athletic leaders try to convince him otherwise.
Lord Birkenhead: Liddell, he is your future king, are you refusing to shake his hand? Does your arrogance extend that far?
Eric Liddell: My arrogance, sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands.
Lord Birkenhead: Fine, then let’s hope that is wise enough to give you room to maneuver.
Lord Cadogan: Don’t be impertinent, Liddell!
Eric Liddell: The impertinence lies, sir, with those who seek to influence a man to deny his beliefs!
HRH Edward, Prince of Wales: There are times when we are asked to make sacrifices in the name of that loyalty. And without them our allegiance is worthless. As I see it, for you, this is such a time.
Eric Liddell: Sir, God knows I love my country. But I can’t make that sacrifice.
As a Christ follower, how do we practice our beliefs in an increasingly antagonistic culture? When do we stand firm and when do we compromise? How far can our convictions stretch before they break altogether and mean nothing?
Fortunately for us, the book of Daniel in the Old Testament provides some insights as to how we can live out our convictions in a culture that either ignores or rejects God.
- Daniel was a teenager when he was taken as a prisoner to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4, 6)
- The Babylonian leaders wanted to change Daniel’s education, diet, and name (1:4-7).
- Rather than eat the king’s food (which had probably been first offered to idols, or went against Jewish dietary laws), Daniel proposed a compromise (1:8-16). For ten days, he and his friends would submit to the education and name change, but follow Jewish dietary laws. The steward could then evaluate the results and Daniel and his friends would abide by the decision.
- King Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of himself and enacts a law that everyone has to bow down to the image. Daniel’s three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refuse and face the fiery furnace as a result (3:1-30).
- Government officials who oppose Daniel enact a law outlawing prayer to anyone but the king (6:1-9). Rather than change his habits, Daniel continues to pray at the same time and same place as he had previously (6:10). Daniel is cast into the lion’s den as a consequence of disobeying the law (6:11-24).
Based on the example of Daniel and his friends, there is a time to suggest a compromise (ch. 1) and there is a time to stand firm in our convictions (chs. 3 & 6). If necessary, we must face the consequences for our choices. And God may, or may not, rescue us from the punishment. Regardless of the outcome, however, we need to be obedient and follow God (3:16-18).
I counseled the student writing the paper on evolution to present what the teacher asked for. The student could quote the teacher’s sources and give what was required. At the end of the paper, the student could then present what Scripture says on the subject. It was a compromise designed to meet the requirements while at the same time declaring their personal convictions.
The worker attached the hardware for the rainbow flag to be raised, but did not participate in any further ceremonies. They performed their duty without endorsing the decision.
As time goes on, Christ followers will face more and more situations where we will have to decide how far our conscience can stretch. May we have the wisdom of Daniel to know when to compromise and when to stand firm.