Faith | When you’re under pressure to conform, don’t ‘take a knee’

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are like prophets that speak to Christians and churches today. Their dramatic story unfolds in the third chapter of the book of Daniel in the Bible.

These three young Jewish men, snatched from their homes in Israel as captives (sound familiar?) were marched off to Babylon by the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar. And it didn’t get any easier when they arrived.

They soon found themselves facing the most difficult decision of their lives.

The king had commanded everyone in his realm to worship a towering golden statue he had just erected in the plain of Dura. Anyone who failed to bow down, would be thrown into a furnace of fire.

The statue was a monstrosity, 90-feet high, 9-feet thick at the base and fashioned out of pure gold. In the bright Middle-East sun, it must have been dazzling.

Then came the moment when the king’s herald shouted to the large crowd standing before the idol.

“People from all nations and languages, when you hear the sound of the musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has built.”

At the first note, the crowd dropped like dominoes in submission.

All except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of a bend at their knees. When you think about it, these youths might have easily justified taking a knee in that dreadful moment.

They might have thought, “I’ll bow down, but I’ll be standing up on the inside.”

Or, “If I bow one time, God will understand.”

Or perhaps, “Everyone is doing this—and we’re not hurting anybody.”

Rationalizations like that sound reasonable, but they are subtly dangerous. In the end, we only fool ourselves.

The three Hebrews’ refusal to bow was rooted in their deep faith in God and their unwavering commitment to obeying his command: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

Like any tyrant, this egocentric ruler had spies watching to see if anyone dared disobey his edict. Inevitably, the word came back: the three Hebrews had refused to comply. While everyone else dropped to their knees, these foreigners had stood straight and tall.

When the king confronted them, they boldly proclaimed their faith in God, saying: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

They spoke respectfully, clearly, and firmly, even under immense pressure to conform.

It was an overpowering scene, with external force from the government, co-workers, neighbors, the Babylonia media of the day and their own desire to preserve their young lives.

What do Christians do when they are pressured, bullied and compelled to compromise their faith and allegiance to their Lord? They stand and stick together shoulder-to-shoulder as the body of Jesus Christ.

What do evil rulers do when not obeyed? They rage.

So, the king raged, “What god will be able to rescue you from my power or my hand?”

These are the words of an insecure man who is filled with fear over someone or something he cannot control. And fear and insecurity are almost always manifested in rage and threats and clenched fists.

These are fiery days, and global geo-political fires are burning. Make no mistake, it’s going to get hotter and the temptation to compromise will be breathtaking.

Even so, I see and sense a growing fire of the Holy Spirit in the Church that Jesus calls his own. And even if we walk through the flames, he will be with us, and never leave us with even a residue of smoke on our lives.

We can all proclaim, “Jesus is our King!”

Micah Smith
Micah Smith

Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network globalgatewaynetwork.org with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 4253 W. 24th Ave., Kennewick, WA 99338. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.