October 14, 2020
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel…
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, equates aspects of our lives to a wrestling match. In the book of Hebrews, a life of faith is described as a race we must win. We’re instructed to put on the full armor of God – a military metaphor. All of these images have a common theme – that of conflict and competition. So an aggressive mindset; in conversation, on social media, at the voting booth, or from the pulpit, is defensible and even commendable. Jesus, enraged at the injustice around him, once drove predatory moneychangers from the temple with a whip. In light of these examples, we might expect Daniel to instigate a rebellion against his captors or at the very least use aggressive language in his conversation. But he does not.
I’m reminded of the adage, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Conflict laden Christianity requires a hammer. Fighting injustice, confronting evil, overcoming addiction, or protecting our children can often call for a hammer-like approach. But there are situations and relationships that need a softer touch. On Monday we looked at Daniel as he started a negotiation for righteousness. That’s a new tool for our toolbox. Today we can see an even greater tool, and it’s not one we need to manufacture – it’s one God has already given us. Look at verse 9. “God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel…”
How often do you assume that God is changing the hearts and minds around you in order to show you favor and compassion? When was the last time you prepared for a conflict, and assumed that God was already working to bring a peaceful resolution? As an introvert and internal processor, I often practice-run difficult conversations before I have them in person. But rarely do I prepare as if compassion will be the overriding sentiment in our exchange. Yet with almost 100% certainty, if I take the time to think through a compassionate and favorable outcome, that’s how the conversation will go. Because God is not only altering others’ hearts, he’s altering yours. Remembering that God is working reconciliation into our relationships and circumstances is a tool you can use at any time.
There will be times where we must confront, and argue, and stand against. But we must also rest in the knowledge that God is working for us. We must believe he is doing more than all of our wit, or preparation, or arguments could ever accomplish. To put a final point on it, read this benediction from Paul to the Ephesians:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.