November 18, 2016

Nine Days After

How did Daniel survive the firings, poisonings, beheadings and devouring by lions that were so much a part of Babylon’s politics—survive and even flourish? Here we share some answers in part two of one outsider’s look at Adventism in context of recent U.S. presidential elections. Part one was entitled “Not Our President?”

Satraps and soothsayers all around Daniel were in gloom about the latest political disaster; or thrilled by their recent triumph; or sticking their heads in the sand. How did Daniel deal with it?

Daniel's priorities were clear: he was a witness for God who happened to be a government officer—not the other way around.

Resolute Daniel

For one thing, God was with him, and he stuck with God. From the beginning, Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8), and God gave him favor and goodwill with the chief (verse 9).

Secondly, Daniel let no one and no thing distract him from his God-given mission. His priorities were clear: he was a witness for God who happened to be a government officer—not the other way around.

Finally, Daniel knew his full job description, even the uncomfortable parts of it! And here more than anywhere, perhaps, we can find analogies that may inform our dealings with the secular powers of the day, in the United States of America or any other country around the world.

Dare to Be a Daniel

Daniel’s job was not easy. More than once God sent him to deliver rebukes to tyrants with the uncontested power of deciding, on a whim, who lived or died (Dan. 5:19). But Daniel never passed the buck. He chose not to be politically correct, but to faithfully render God’s message, and even add some advice of his own! After delivering a most uncomfortable dream interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet counseled: “Break off your sins bybeingrighteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy tothepoor” (Dan. 4:27).

And here, I think, is the key to the whole issue. For while we—like Daniel of old—may reasonably expect that God is with us and we are with God, and that ideally, no ruler on this earth should sidetrack us from our God-given mission, we may be also eventually enjoined to deliver uncomfortable messages to a government in any country around the world.

What will our Seventh-day Adventist stance then be? Will we accept the challenge like Daniel did, or will we recoil from our Christian duty? How will we react when—again, in any country and government around the world—we witness the rights of minorities trampled, the vulnerable preyed upon, the disagreeables disavowed and laughed at, perhaps by some of our very own?

The Seventh-day Adventist movement was born with a clear-cut vision of preparing a people for eternity while striving to make people whole also in this life. Thus, it is not surprising that our pioneers were usually very vocal about the social issues of their day. They opposed slavery, condemned war as the first option for conflict resolution, and rejected anything short of full freedom of conscience and religion.

Is our historically edgy denomination losing its edge? Are we perhaps resting on our laurels?

How are we doing in those and other similar respects? Is our historically edgy denomination losing its edge? Are we perhaps resting on our laurels? Have we become too distracted by Byzantine second-rate discussions at the expense of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Mic. 6:8)? Do we resort too often to one-size-fits-all consolation by quoting Jesus: “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)?

Keeping Our Balance

Remember now, that striving to be at the forefront of social, health, and spiritual reform is not an end in itself. For Seventh-day Adventist Christians, the end goal is always mission-born, mission-driven, and mission-oriented. The key question is—no matter the ruler of the day—how to argue our case in a way that makes our mission more palatable, and even more desirable to “Babylonian” ears. And, simultaneously, how to do it like Daniel did by staying true to our heavenly call even against the most difficult odds.

A hint: When facing external challenges in communicating our message to contemporary societies and governments, conventional wisdom says that we are very likely to act and react in the same way we have historically chosen to deal with our internal disagreements. Just like the Daniel of old, answering back to the secular authorities of the day is an end-to-end process. So, if either intramural strife or conciliation tends to be our usual first-choice course of action, we may certainly expect to react in either a strife-ridden or conciliatory manner. Thus, the obvious question is, how to tackle our in-house dissension in a way that does not bring disrepute to the cause but, on the contrary, enhances and ultimately expands our missionary reach before the Nebuchadnezzars of our day.

Allow me to leave this as an open question.

Holding Together in Love

Love your neighbor election friend

Help me pray that, as the voices of political pundits quiet progressively down, in the aftermath of the last U.S. election, you and I may hear ever more clearly the “still small voice” of the One in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17, NIV), reminding us that there is no greater commandment than to “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart…soul, and…mind,” and our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37, 39).

As a sign in a nameless American street posted on Instagram a couple days after the election read, “Turn off the news, and love your neighbor!”

No one needs to be of any particular political persuasion, geographic residence or citizenship to follow that dictum. Indeed, I am positive that my acquaintances and friends of all political stripes are willing to concur with this value on social media, even as they celebrate or mourn the latest developments in American politics.

To read part one of this article, click here.