I am a fanatical fan of the Scottish rugby team, I like to think of it as the thorn in the flesh God has given me to keep me humble. I prefer to watch Scotland play at Murrayfield the national stadium here in .Edinburgh and not just because it’s only a short bus journey from my house. Scotland tend to record their relatively rare victories at home at Murrayfield
Its not just rugby, Playing at home seems to give all sports teams a big advantage,
Probably because when you play at home you have a supportive atmosphere and everything is familiar, you fit in there.
However when teams play away from home they face an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile environment which is probably why they don’t perform so well.
There is a lot of talk in the UK at the moment about “FRONTLINE FAITH”
Our “front line” are those places where as followers of Jesus where we spend most of our time.
For many of us here, a substantial part of our front line will be our work place.
Most of us spend about 40 hours a week at work and some times much longer. Or it could be our school, university or college or perhaps our home and local community.
Now even about 30 years ago our culture here in Scotland felt for us as Christians a bit like Scotland playing at Murrayfield. As Christians living in Scotland we had a bit of a home advantage.
Even though most people in our culture weren’t active christians most of the values in our culture were largely in line with our values as Christians.
That culture which was shaped by and gave a privileged position to the Church and Christianity was called Christendom, it was a culture in which most of the laws reflected the values and morality of Christianity
Now in 2016 people are talking about Scotland not having a Christendom culture but a post Christendom culture and what that means in a nutshell for us as Christians is that living in Scotland is increasingly feeling like we are sports team playing away from home, we no longer live in a supportive culture and in fact some times it feels a bit like it must feel like for the England rugby team to play at Murrayfield.
CONFLICTS WITH CULTURE
Over the past few years there have been a whole series of high profile cases which have hit the headlines where Christians have found their work place has become a hostile environment to be a Christ follower because their values and beliefs have brought them into conflict with the values and policies of their employers
Nadia Eweida, a coptic christian, was disciplined and then sacked by British Airways for wearing a cross on her uniform despite other adherents of other religions being allowed to wear symbols connected to their faith.
Gary McFarlane was a marriage counsellor with Relate who despite having been a counsellor for many years was sacked because he refused to give sex advice to gay couples.
Two Catholic midwives Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan ended up in the High Court. They had worked at the southern general in Glasgow for over 20 years but then the hospital changed their policy and patients who were having abortions were cared for on the labour ward where the two catholic midwives worked and they were required to care for them and also supervise and organise the work of other nurses who were involved in carrying out the abortions. The midwives had always been exempted before from being involved in abortions because of their beliefs but now the policy was changed and they were disciplined for refusing to be involved in abortions
There have been lots and lots of other examples which have made it into the news where Christians have come into conflict with their employers because of their faith.
I suspect that many of us for whom our work places are a big part of our front line would have our own stories about how our beliefs and values are increasingly bringing us into situations of tension and some times conflict with our work colleagues and employers.
Maybe some times employers ask us to do things we feel are dishonest, like not tell the truth about delivery dates or covering some thing up.
I know some Christians who came into conflict with their employers over equality training where they felt they were being forced to deny what they believed about sexuality and marriage
Here’s the thing, as our culture moves further and further away from its Christians roots
, we as Christians living in what we described as this Post Christian culture
are going to find ourselves more and more
in tension and conflict with the our employers and fellow workers.
Our work place is going to feel increasingly like an away game for a sports team so this is a big issue for us as we think about living for the Kingdom of God in our frontline.
THE KEY QUESTION
How are we to respond as Christians to an increasingly non Christian work place and the potential tensions and conflicts its brings?
Well here are two attempted answers I have seen to that question.
The strict Amish in the USA have nothing to do with what they see as the “world.” So they live in separate communities and they work for themselves or for other Amish and as far as possible they won’t work for people who they don’t consider as true believers.
They believe that the beliefs of Christians and the values of the Kingdom of God are so different that any Christians working for a non Christian organisation or person will inevitably betray Christ.
There is another attitude that I have noticed among Christians when it comes to this whole area which I’ll call the chameleon compromise. Chameleons of course can change colour to fit in with their background so they don’t stand out.
That’s what many Christians do at work, they leave Christian values and beliefs at church and at their work they just act, think and speak like everyone else who aren’t citizens of the Kingdom of God.
I can remember a Christian business man telling me if he lived by the values of the Kingdom of God he would go out of business so he had work in the same way all the other companies did, in other words, like a Chameleon he changed to fit in, not by changing his colours but by compromising his Christian faith.
I BELIEVE NEITHER OF THESE OPTIONS ARE VIABLE FOR US IF WE WANT TO FOLLOW JESUS BECAUSE JESUS GAVE US THIS COMMAND WE CAN’T AVOID
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus says we are to exert a transforming influence, that is, to be salt and light, not among ourselves but in the world, in the culture which has largely rejected God
to do that we have to have two things.
We must be a CONTRAST (Salt & Light) to our unbelieving culture & and have CONTACT with that culture (of the earth & of the world)
If you think about it,
THE AMISH ATTITUDE = All CONTRAST but no CONTACT
THE CHAMELEON COMPROMISE = All CONTACT but no CONTRAST
We need a third way, a way which has both contrast & contact
If we are going to learn to live for the Kingdom of God in our front line we need to find a way of doing it which doesn’t involve withdrawing from the world or becoming just like it.
I think there is another option and we find it maybe place surprising place. In the story of Daniel.
Now when I was in Sunday School we used to sing a song that said
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
We were taught that Daniel was a man who wouldn’t make any compromises with the pagan world he had to live in and were told neither should we.
In fact as a little experiment I looked at some sermon titles on Daniel on the Internet. Here are some of the ones which give you a flavour of how Daniel is being preached
REFUSING TO COMPROMISE
NEVER GIVE AN INCH
The problem is with all of those is that when we actually read this story of Daniel living for God on his front line carefully what we find it is a lot more complicated than NO COMPROMISE. The story is much more nuanced than that.
DANIEL …… Was a young man who had definitely lost home field advantage … He was taken from Jerusalem and taken to Babylon. If any where was a hostile environment for God’s people it was Babylon. They had destroyed God’s Temple and enslaved God’s people.
DIDN’T adopt the
Instead he is an example of what I am going to call CRITICAL ENGAGEMENT
which meant he lived a life of CONTRAST & CONTRACT
Daniel critically engaged with the culture around, He
DIDNT ACCEPT EVERYTHING
DIDN’T REJECT EVERYTHING
INSTEAD HE CONSIDERED EVERYTHING IN THE LIGHT OF HIS FAITH
He thought about each issue and whether he could do what he was being asked to do as a follower of the true God
What we rarely talk about in church is that after he considered some issues he was willing to COMPROMISE on some of them
Look at Daniel chapter one and you’ll see he was willing to compromise with his new pagan “employers” and do some things that he was probably personally pretty uncomfortable with and would have preferred not to do
HE COMPROMISED ON:
Pagan Education: “He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.”
Pagan Name: “The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.”
I would call these areas of possible compromise, “grey areas” …. They are areas and situations which although uncomfortable for us as believers don’t mean we have betrayed our faith.
So what i want you to grasp is that Daniel didn’t take a stand on everything he was uncomfortable with
PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF DANIEL FOR US WHO ARE LEARNING TO LIVE FOR GOD IN A HOSTILE CULTURE IS THAT
…. HE KNEW HIS BOTTOM LINE
What i mean by that is there were issues where Daniel was willing to compromise but there were also issues on which Daniel would not compromise on. These issues of “no compromise” were his bottom lines, his lines in the sand, the issues he wouldn’t give an inch on. There are pretty clear from the text
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way”
For Daniel, a bottom line was the Kings Food, he would not compromise and eat it. He believed that to do so, would be to “defile” himself, to betray his faith and make him do what was unacceptable to his .god.
In all honesty i don’t think we can be sure why the Kings food was more of an issue than the education or name
There has been some suggestions ….
KOSHER? …. Perhaps the food wasn’t kosher, but he refused wine which is kosher
Perhaps he refused the kings food because it had been sacrificed to idols or suggested Daniel was acknowledging the King not Yahweh to be his ultimate overlord?
From all i have read I think probably eating the King’s food was some how displacing God as the ultimate authority over his life and involving Daniel in worshipping other Gods. That’s what Daniel couldn’t do it because he knew there was only one KING OF KINGS and he wasn’t the King of Babylonia and there was only one true God He was none of the Gods of the Babylonians
As you read on in the story it becomes clear Daniel had a tremendous understanding of the greatness of His God
‘Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
That meant that Daniel knew that despite who was paying his wages he actually worked for God and he wouldn’t do anything that contradicted what God had commanded and he wouldn’t allow anyone or anything to take God’s place as the supreme authority in his life
“If within us,
we find nothing over us
we will succumb to
whatever is around us”
If we don’t like Daniel settle the issue of who we serve, who is ultimately and supremely “over us”, and get it clear in our mind that our ultimate loyalty is owed to our God not our employer, we will “succumb to whatever is around us”
Just look at these words from Paul about working in our frontline .…. Col 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” Paul says no matter who pays our wages as Christ followers we work for Lord, He is the ultimate and final authority for us.
FOR DANIEL THERE WERE
GREY AREAS .… Where you could compromise and not be “defiled”
BLACK AND WHITE AREAS .... Where you could not compromise without being “defiled”
FOR US IN OUR “FRONT LINES”
We too need to decide what areas of our work are our
GREY AREAS ..… we can compromise despite being uncomfortable
BLACK AND WHITE AREAS ... we can’t compromise.
To do that we must
DECIDE WHERE OUR BOTTOM LINES ARE
BOTTOM LINE ....areas where you can’t compromise without defiling yourself
LETS THINK ABOUT THOSE MIDWIVES in GLASGOW .… They compromised in that they were willing to work in the same department as abortions took place. But their bottom line was. …. Supervising staff who were helping carry out abortions or organising the procedure
so how do we do it?
DEVELOPING YOUR BOTTOM LINE
Decide God is “over you” ( decide in advance God has the final say)
Know God’s Word ( how can you decide what God says if you don’t read what He has said ,?)
Be Sensitive to God’s Spirit ( What is God saying to you on the issue?)
Be Connected to God’s People (discuss the issue with and be accountable to God’s people especially those who are or have faced the same issue and decisions)