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The Deal With Daniel

We have returned to reading through the Bible this month at Legacy Church. We began this week by reading the story of Daniel, the exiled Israelite whom God used during his Babylonian captivity to reveal many things about the future. Daniel's prophecy has captured more attention in these uncertain days, but I have always been intrigued with his character.

Daniel was chosen from among his peers to serve in the king's court. We all like to be chosen, and in those days this was a big deal. Enemies of the state were to be groomed to be servants to the king. No one in his or her right mind would refuse the opportunity.

Daniel accepted the offer, but refused to be like everyone else. (Daniel 1) This is where the story gets good for me.

Daniel resisted the all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet of the king and stuck to the diet he had known from childhood--a diet that honored his God and the traditions of his family's faith. That would be like telling the President of the United States you appreciate the food the White House chef prepared, but you'd stick with the food your mother cooked back home. Not the way to fit in, in my opinion.

I'm one who likes to fit in. In church world, it has been called being "relevant." We have been told that relevancy to the culture in our presentation, building, message, and programs will give us a hearing with those in the culture. I've tried all that, and the culture doesn't listen any more today than fifteen years ago.

When I think of Daniel's choice and the invitation to relevance, I recall Henri Nouwen's prophetic voice that one of the temptations of a Christian leader is to be relevant. The problem, he writes, is that relevance is driven by one's need for self-esteem and success. He wrote,

  • “The leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there.” (In the Name of Jesus, 22)
"Solidarity with the anguish," not relevance in the culture, is the calling of Christian leaders. We enter this anguish in order to "bring the light of Jesus" into the pain success brings to our lives.

How do we do this? Nouwen offers a lifestyle of contemplative prayer to know Jesus as the way we escape the lure of relevance.

  • “If there is any focus that the Christian leader of the future will need, it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of the One who keeps asking us, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?’” (28) 
The deal with Daniel was that being a "son of Israel" was more important than being a servant of the king. 

I wonder what our lives would look like and where our leadership would lead us if being "children of God" (Rom. 8:15-17) was more important than being relevant in the world we live? Take some time to consider this today as you find yourself invited to be relevant where you work and live.