At Cornerstone we have been looking at the book of Daniel. A strange book but it contains stories familiar to many of us from our childhood: – Daniel in the Lions’ den, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace and the mysterious fingers appearing and writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s Feast.
In the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (in chapter three if you want to (re)read it) there are two verses which stand out. To set the scene, Nebuchadnezzar has erected a golden statue and given orders that at the sound of musical instruments everyone must prostrate themselves and worship the statue. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three Israelites given high positions in Nebuchadnezzar’s court refuse to do so. Other members of the court, jealous of their high status betray them to Nebuchadnezzar who then tells them that if they do not bow down and worship the statue they will be thrown into the fiery furnace.
Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego say in verses 17 & 18:- ‘If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’ (NRSVA)
What a response. These are not people who are going be made a little uncomfortable and have a few privileges removed, they are going to be put to death in a horrible way and their response is simply to put themselves in the hands of God and do what they believe to be right.
I expect that most, if not all, of us have been in the position of being asked to do something which does not quite agree with our conscience or we see something which we think is wrong. What do we do then?
If we suspect that an elderly neighbour is being taken advantage of or vulnerable child is being abused do we think it is someone else’s problem and leave them to deal with it? If we see someone being shouted at in the street do we avert our gaze, walk by on the other side of the street and hope that someone else does something about it? Fortunately most of us do not experience situations where we are in actual danger and the police would say that we should not put ourselves at risk but we do need to stand up for what we believe in. That is not to say that we should be interfering busy bodies but we should look out for our neighbours and that may mean doing something which takes some courage or makes us feel uncomfortable.
Bowing down and worshipping the golden statue would have meant submitting to values other than those Shadrach Meshach and Abednego believed to be right. As Christians we hold to certain values and we should not be ashamed to proclaim them. Sometimes we will fall short, after all even Christians are human, but that does not mean that we should not keep trying. St Paul in chapter 7 of his letter to the Romans says that he is constantly struggling to do what is right. If even St Paul struggled why should we expect to find it easy? But the more we try to do what is right the more often we might actually succeed.