I bet you have heard the following quote (or at least a similar version of it) before: “As Christians, we are to be in the world but not of the world.” This is how the story of Daniel intersects the story we find ourselves in today. Daniel’s story is about how a minority in a foreign, hostile culture can not only survive and retain their identity as God’s people but also, as a creative minority, impact the world for the glory of God and the sake of others.
Thriving in today’s Babylon as a Creative Minority
So, what does it look like for us, as Jesus’ disciples, to live as a creative minority in today’s modern-day Babylon? From the story of Daniel, we observe that living as a creative minority requires the following:
1. Continuous courage and determination
The Babylonians sought to inculturate the young Jewish adults. For three years, they were trained in the language and literature of Babylon (Daniel 1:4). The goal of this three-year program was not to help Daniel win the “Babylonian Trivial Night” at the local bar on Wednesday nights. It intended to make Daniel Babylonian. This training was a social re-engineering to create compromise in the life of the people of God.
In addition, the youth were served the best foods and most amazing wines straight from the king’s table. However, notice what Daniel 1:8-9 says, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. . . And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.”
Daniel refused to compromise his beliefs and way of life with the cultural pressures he faced living as a minority in a anti-God culture. In response to Daniel’s resolve, God gave him grace and favor with his authorities.
We too face an onslaught of social re-engineering as exiles in our culture.
Our Babylon whispers to us, “Go ahead indulge yourself just a little bit. Nothing big. It’s ok. Everyone else is doing it. Just cut the corner a bit. It’s just a little sin. You can always ask God to forgive you. It’s ok. You are in Babylon!”
Like Daniel, we must submit ourselves to God and courageously resist the temptations of our culture which compromise our beliefs and values.
A creative minority lives boldly, courageously, and dares greatly.
2. Authentic community with fellow exiles
The Babylonian empire sought to isolate Daniel and his friends from their families, communities, and place of worship. However, Daniel and his friends intentionally maintained a foundation of a close-knit community.
Likewise, we must not choose to isolate ourselves from fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. If we become isolated, this culture will eat us alive.
In today’s world, we have to maintain a high level of authentic community with other believers.
And this is not just for 90 minutes at a corporate worship service, but in conventional relationships of doing life together to bless, encourage, strengthen, and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
A creative minority maintains community in a web of stubbornly loyal relationships.
3. Practicing the spiritual disciplines of Jesus
In Daniel 6:10, we witness Daniel (probably in his 70s at this point in the story) continuing in his life of prayer: “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Nowhere in Scripture can you find a command that says “pray three times a day.” This was merely a spiritual practice that Daniel had developed throughout his life.
As exiles in a foreign culture designed to turn you away from God, spiritual practices (such as prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, meditation, sharing meals with others, etc.) are powerful tools to help you remain faithful to Jesus.
A creative community is committed to practicing the way of Jesus.
In Daniel 3, we encounter the story where King Nebuchadnezzar constructs a golden image and issues a decree that whenever a certain proclamation is made everyone must fall down and worship the image. Failure to comply meant a one-way ticket to a fiery furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to participate in the ritual because of its contradiction to the Law of God. They did not march and protest the ruling, they did not yell and scream that King Neb was going to burn in Hell, nor did they try to overthrow the king. Instead, they just did not participate.
In our Babylon, there will be times that we are in the world but must choose non-participation in the ways of the world.
A creative minority maintains strong links with the outside world while staying true to their faith and obedience to God.
5. Always living from an excellent spirit and integrity
Returning to Daniel 6, we discover that the Medes have conquered the Babylonian empire. Darius, the new king, sets Daniel as one of his three officials over all others in his new kingdom. After some time, the Bible says, “Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom” (Daniel 6:3, ESV). This announcement enraged the other officials. But when they conspired to bring an allegation against Daniel, “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (6:4).
As a creative minority, we must distinguish ourselves by demonstrating exceptional qualities such as being trustworthy, faithful, and responsible in all that we are entrusted to do.
6. Exerting redemptive influence
Throughout the book of Daniel, we continually witness how Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faithfully served the foreign, pagan kings over them. From offering their wisdom, interpreting dreams, administrating the responsibilities they were given, and to overseeing an entire nation, they sought to influence others.
A creative minority seeks to bless those around them and to make a positive contribution in the world through participation in the redemptive works of Jesus.
As we conclude this four-part series on Living in Exile, I want to admonish you in this truth: a creative minority seeks to be both faithful to Jesus and to be His fruitful presence upon the earth.
Now, let’s go into all the world as a creative minority and make disciples of Jesus!