There’s a word that’s been used a lot in the last couple days over social media in regards to the decision by the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage. Don’t worry, it’s not a word that is offensive. At least it shouldn’t be.
There’s been a lot of yelling, back and forth, about convictions. One side is full of conviction that this is more than just a political ruling and that it will lead to religious compromise. The other side is full of conviction that this is just a political ruling and has nothing do with religious compromise. Wherever we fall on the side of the decision, we have our convictions about it. Which is good. Convictions drive us and motivate us to act. How do we communicate those convictions, especially if you’re a Christ follower who disagrees with the decision?
Your profile picture on Facebook won’t convince anyone (on either side). Liking something someone else posted, or sharing a video you really agreed with will never get someone to listen to your convictions. Neither will long arguments via Facebook. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, or even protest signs have never convinced anyone of anything. So, instead of all that, I’d rather follow the example of three incredible young men.
Three men who, faced with political pressure, refused to succumb. They stood when everyone else bowed, knowing that they could be punished for it. When given a second opportunity to compromise their convictions, they refused and were scheduled for execution.
When asked why they wouldn’t do what everyone else was doing, they didn’t argue or try to persuade. They didn’t use harsh words or attempt to convince the other person why they were wrong. There was no slogan they chanted, no verse they pointed to to justify why they were right. They politely and respectfully explained why they were taking their stand, their belief in what they were doing, and left it at that.
The three men were named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their names may be familiar because they were the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to a golden statue put up by King Nebuchadnezzar. He asked for their reasoning, which they gave. (You can find it in Daniel 3:16-18. It’s pretty amazing how respectful their tone is, yet how clear their convictions shine.) Their answer made him so mad he stoked the fire seven times hotter and had them thrown in to die. What happened next surprised everyone.
Instead of burning to death, the three young men walked around in the fire, completely unharmed, and they had a conversation with another, fourth person, who even Nebuchadnezzar said, “Looks like a god!”
Scholars differ on their feelings as to who this fourth person was, but many agree that it was most likely a pre-Incarnate encounter with Jesus Christ. The Son of God was present Himself with the three young men, and He made Himself known and visible to the Babylonian ruler. He promptly called them out, recognized they were clearly servants of the Most High God and even proclaimed, “There is no other God who can rescue like this!”
My point is this: standing for your convictions is a great thing to do. God gives us our convictions for a reason, and it’s to help us choose wisely, to help guide our morality. In short, it’s completely biblical. But there’s nothing in the Bible that says standing for those convictions means we get to be a jerk. Nowhere in their story do Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego call everyone who bowed a name. They never told the king he was going to hell for his decision, nor did they argue when the time came for them to be punished. What I love even more is that the three men didn’t go around arguing with everyone who was bowing down, telling them why they were wrong, and why they shouldn’t bow. They waited until they were face to face with the king and shared their convictions with honesty, forthrightness, and respect.
Yes, it didn’t go well. They expressed themselves in a godly manner and still were thrown to their deaths. But, in that moment, their convictions did something amazing. They helped Nebuchadnezzar, and all of Babylon, see God.
Convictions are something both sides of the political spectrum hold deeply. We often live or die by those convictions. But what example do we set, how likely are we to be heard, when we scream and yell our convictions to convince someone else of their veracity? I love the example set by three young men facing a fiery furnace.
They stood their ground and did not bow. But because of they way they shared their convictions, they helped others see God. I wonder, what do I want when I share my convictions? Do I want people to see an anti-rainbow profile picture? Or the God who says He loves them just as much as He loves me? What’s the most important thing? Proving our point, or pointing to Jesus?
I think I know what all four men in the fiery furnace would say.