September is always a month of new beginnings. New schools, new workplaces, new environments. As we embark on these new journeys, we’re confronted with numerous challenges. One in particular seems to emerge wherever we go: how do we navigate these new spaces as Christians without compromising our faith?
Maintain your integrity
Integrity is undoubtedly one of the most admirable attributes a person can have. To be a person of integrity is to have a consistency between your morals and your actions, whether in public or private. There are few greater tests to our integrity than when we find ourselves in a new environment among a sea of unfamiliar faces. Will you dance to the tune of the culture or remain steadfast in your God-given convictions?
This became a dilemma for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego during the Babylonian exile. In possessing physical strength, skill and intellect, they were selected to be trained for service in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace (Daniel 1:1-4).
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,Daniel 1:8-9
The Babylonian’s attempts to lure them away from YHWH and their Jewish faith proved futile. No matter how great the food, education and new names they were given (Daniel 1:5-7), they remained true to their God and resolved to serve Him alone.
They declined the non-kosher foods before them (which had probably been sacrificed to idols), signifying a refusal to conform to the Babylonian cultural system. Their defiance demonstrated their willingness to live as God required of them as Hebrew men. They refused to compromise and chose the path of obedience toward God, knowing that this was for His glory and their blessing. To say yes to God and no to that which displeases Him is to express your contentment in Him.
Lawful but not helpful
With Daniel and the three Hebrew boys, their integrity was tested when asked to do things which God had explicitly prohibited. But what about those grey areas where scripture doesn’t speak directly on a matter? I don’t endeavour to present a list of some sort. This is because we mustn’t approach how we use our Christian liberty as a mere tick-box exercise. Rather than asking “How far can I get toward the edge of the cliff without falling off?”, we ought to ask some alternative questions guided by Scripture.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.1 Corinthians 10:23
Why not ask yourself “Does this edify me?” or “Is it profitable for my spiritual growth?” Will finding myself in certain environments and engaging in some behaviours facilitate my sanctification?
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.1 Corinthians 6:12
“Is there a chance that this may become a habit I am somewhat dependent upon, or worse, enslaved to?” This all requires serious consideration and prayer so that we may be prepared when put to the test.
All this isn’t to say that we should flee from secular spaces, nor am I suggesting that fruitful relationships cannot be developed with non-Christians. That would be absurd. I say this to encourage us not to be satisfied with shallow, minimalistic Christian living whereby we blend in with the world without completely camouflaging with it. Carefully treading the border of that which is permissible and impermissible. God has called us to so much more than this.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,Philippians 1:27
Although you may not be facing opposition as the Philippians were, you are accountable to God, your spiritual mentors and yourself. We must live in a manner that honours the Gospel. We must live as loyal, patriotic citizens of our heavenly Kingdom, sharing and living out the Gospel.
Living as Ambassadors
One of the worst things we can do is to run away from engaging with the community and people around us. This neglects our duties as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Although we do not identify by the world’s systems and conform to its ways, we are to be the sweet fragrance of Christ – diffusing the Gospel that is a pleasant scent of joy and life to the believer but defeat and death to the unbeliever. We are to be a loving people representing our Lord as we share the good news. This is why Christ prayed that His disciples may remain in the world, protected from Satan, but not be of the world.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.2 Corinthians 2:15-17
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.John 17:15-16
Although we have a heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20a), we still have work to do in our schools, universities, workplaces or wherever God has placed us. Work diligently and to the glory of God honouring the opportunity He has given you whilst involving Him in all your labours (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23). Let’s also live as people with integrity, not abusing our liberty in Christ, but being His Ambassadors who faithfully live for Him irrespective of where we find ourselves.