The Launch Of The Steward Declaration
In Daniel chapter 3 we have the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the fiery furnace. Most often when this is preached or taught the focus is on the miraculous rescue of the three from the blazing inferno.
As we begin 2022, I want to focus on a different part of the story and its impact on decisions we will make in this new year. To me the most challenging part of the drama is the command from the King Nebuchadnezzar for all people to ‘fall down’ on their faces and worship the idol he had created once they heard the music playing. It seems there were two purposes for this. The first was to ensure that homage was being paid by all the citizens of the land. The second was to point out very clearly the recusants.
What might we have done given such a choice? As our American culture continues its rapid moral decline, the values of the kingdom of God and its central messages of sin, grace, salvation, sacrifice and obedience are standing out in the starkest contrast against a background of narcissism and human avarice. So much so that we are considered anathema to those bent on driving the Christian message from all public life.
The increasing acrimony toward the Christian message is a modern version of the king’s music heard through the power of intimidation, social media threats, ostracization and condemnation. When it plays, how do we respond? Stand firm and be burned in the fire of public disapproval or bow down and let our silence save us?
I wonder if we as evangelicals in America are choosing a third option, or at least attempting it. While it’s easy to say we will stand tall and firm and face the flames of an increasingly hostile culture, I wonder if, too often, we try to find a middle ground.
Imagine in Daniel’s day that as the music started playing Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego responded by bending over just enough to appear to the authorities to be bowing down to save them from the furnace, while also seeming to be standing up just enough to not forsake their faith. What a sad scene!
They would have nothing to do with such a compromise. They stood tall for all to see. Their faith reflected Jesus’ later command, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved”(Matthew 10:22).
Yet despite Jesus’ command to stand firm, and the witness of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, it seems this kind of crouching Christianity is a choice we too easily make even as we desire to be faithful Jesus followers. In the face of growing hostility to our faith, we can easily forget that Jesus’s invitation to follow him includes his command that we must take up our cross in order to do so (Luke 9:23).
My question for us is whether we will stand tall in 2022 when our culture plays its music and demands we compromise our values, conform to the standards of this world, and accommodate, or at least privatize our faith? Will we be crouching Christians in 2022, or will we, like our three friends in Daniel, stand firm regardless of the cost?
What might it look like to stand tall in 2022? Well, here is one option right at the beginning of the year.
Today, Epiphany, January 6th we officially launch The Steward Declaration. A group of thirty or so people have been meeting annually for the last eight years to present papers and dialogue on issues of faith and the life of the faithful steward. From those summits we have produced a document that is our attempt to stand tall, proclaim the truth and call the body of Christ in America back to the fully surrendered, obedient and joyful life of the faithful steward.
You are invited to be among the first to read it here and, as God leads, sign it and share it. We pray that by adding your name to this declaration, you will start the new year standing firm and proclaiming truth regardless of the cost. I pray the document is a blessing and a challenge to you. There are also a number of resources to help you walk the journey in 2022.
Let’s come together and send a message to our nation that God’s people take their faith seriously and will stand firm on our kingdom values. May that encourage and bless you in the year ahead.