“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.”Daniel 1:8-9
The wind doesn’t break a tree that bends,” an African proverb says. Resilience is the trait of being able to return to an original shape after being twisted, compressed, or stretched. It is the ability to pick yourself up after a setback, dust off, and continue to move forward.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to develop the ability to bend and not break in a culture that is drifting further and further from God. When it comes to living courageously in our chaotic culture, striking the balance of bending and not breaking can be a tricky one. Fortunately, Daniel’s example in Babylon gives us practical lessons in finding that balance.
No person in the Bible better illustrates the principle of bending but not breaking when under fire than the Old Testament character Daniel. Forcibly removed from his homeland by the Babylonians, Daniel was thrown into that pagan culture and ordered to conform, which would have violated his religious convictions. However, instead of openly defying the authorities, Daniel courageously found a way to bend and, in doing so, won the praise of God and his captors.
Even as a teenager, Daniel demonstrated resilience. He could accept a Babylonian education and a new name, but he refused to compromise his deepest convictions. Yet he was wise enough to find a way to bend instead of break. Daniel could have stormed into the palace and been defiant towards the king and his orders. But in doing so, Daniel would have forfeited the ministry that God had planned for him in Babylon for the next 70 years.
Fortunately, Daniel chose to display the wisdom and discernment that had made the king notice him in the first place. Daniel demonstrated his respect for the king’s office and presented his request politely. The result not only led to favor in the sight of God and others but also led to peace. As Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
How can we experience a similar outcome as we seek to live biblically in a culture that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian?
First, you can be a winsome witness. Do you know who the least hypocritical people in the world are? Sinning sinners. When they sin, they are merely doing what comes naturally to them. But I meet Christians all the time who are surprised—or angered—for example, when Hollywood produces another movie filled with filth. Yet, there’s no reason to get upset when sinners sin. When people don’t know the freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ, they are slaves to sin. So, they sin.
What ought to shock us is when Christians sin. There is nothing more hypocritical than when a person who has the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit breaks under the pressure of temptation. Yet we do it all the time. And when we do, we damage our Christian witness.
Keeping ourselves free from sin, though, is only one way to be a winsome witness. The other is living out our biblical convictions with joy and grace. Christians today are standing courageously against those who deliberately—or sometimes innocently—attempt to take away our constitutional rights and impede our biblical mandate to spread the message of Jesus Christ. But in doing so, we don’t have to act like jerks!
We don’t have to dump a truckload of Bible verses on people in an effort to get them right with the Lord. Instead, the Bible says, we ought to “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2–4). God’s great longing is that all would come to know the truth of the gospel. He would like to use you in helping fulfill that desire. But that requires you to extend grace to others.
If we are going to survive, and even thrive, during these challenging days, we must learn to bend and not break. None of this comes naturally. Nevertheless, if we bless others who curse us, if we leave room for God to avenge us, and if we seek peace in a creative and grace-filled manner, as Daniel did, then we just might “overcome evil with good.”