While I was in seminary, I worked a thankless job at the Boys & Girls Club. One of my responsibilities was to be a bus monitor for the kids we picked up from one particular elementary school. The bus driver was an older black gentleman with a sweet spirit. In order to get in the bus line on time, we would get to the school an hour before the kids got out. That hour each day on the bus gave us lots of time to get to talk. It turns out that this guy also happened to be a pastor. He was a pastor with principles.
I’ll never forget the day that the bus driver told me that he had to leave his church. He had only been there for a couple of months, but he had to leave. Apparently, this particular church had a notorious reputation for sin. As shocking as it may seem, there was an expectation that the men of the church would swap wives from time to time – including the pastor. When he confronted them about this practice, he was quickly ran out of the church. Principles clashed with worldly expectations.
I remember another instance where principles clashed with expectations. Shortly after graduating from high school, I was shocked to find that one of our beloved coaches had to resign. Apparently, there was an expectation from the head football coach that the coaching staff would gather on Sunday mornings to review tape. It was also common occurrence for practice to go long on Wednesday nights. When this particular principled coach confronted the situation, an ultimatum was given. Instead of compromising principles and missing church, the coach resigned.
The truth of the matter is that Christian culture warriors are given countless opportunities to compromise. On any given day, we face any number of circumstances where we can compromise with worldly expectations or we can stand on our principles. The only weapon we have against compromise is principle. The country music singer had it right when he sang, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
As we continue to work through Daniel, this week we will see one of the greatest examples of the clash between principles and expectations. We have heard this story since we were children – of the three Jews in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. While it is a great Bible story for children about faith, we are moving at a frightening pace towards a time when we may be asked to compromise principles for acceptance—or face our own example of a fiery furnace. We may not have ten-story golden statues to pay homage to, but we do have plenty of other idols placed before us that beckon for our attention.
The most amazing thing about the story of the fiery furnace is the boldness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Even if they are killed in the furnace, they refuse to compromise their principles. That’s the most appropriate question for us today. If following principles costs us everything, will we still follow our principles? The truest measure of our faith is not how well we live it when everything comes easy, but how well we live it when everything is on the line.
We are rapidly moving toward a time where Christian principles are no longer appreciated. For those Christians who stand on their principles, there are ample risks. Could it cost us our lives? One day it might. Could it cost us our jobs? It already is in some places. Will it cost us friends? Most certainly. The question we must answer, is whether or not we will be willing to follow Christ even to the point that our very lives could be demanded from us?
Culture warriors beware, fiery furnaces await.