It is common experience among Christians watching the current chaotic political situation, and the general ethical degradation of secular society, to feel overwhelmed. To grow concerned about our children’s future, and our own. As we watch the pillars of a relatively civilized society slowly crumble before our eyes, hope can grow thin. On the national stage, the shouting match between the left and the right grows ever louder and more bombastic as appeals to fear replace facts and sound reasoning.
“This way,” says a worried voice, “went the Weimar Republic.”
But Reformation Man does not worry. Because Reformation Man sees the continuity between the believers in the Old Testament and those in the New, he knows that he can draw perspective by meditating on both their experience and God’s instruction to us all. So we focus today on Shadrach, a young man captured by an idol-worshipping, thoroughly pagan empire and forced into its perverse, intrigue-riddled political service.
His real name was Hananiah, a name that contains the “yah” element that points to God’s personal name every time it was said.
As one of Daniel’s colleagues and inner circle of friends, Hananiah knew his role as a political agent. What he knew, Reformation Man knows.
He knew, first and foremost, that he was appointed to service in the Kingdom of God. He knew he had not earned this appointment; it was simply the decision of the King of All.
Abram had the same experience; when he heard God say “walk before Me”, Abram recognized the formal language used by the local Hittite kings as they periodically conscripted men and women into their political service. This language forever severed the selected hearer from their village and their tribal life, and launched them into a new life as part of the king’s regional power structure. Their limited conceptual horizon instantly expanded, from a few hills and valleys and a few herds of sheep and goats to thousands of square miles filled with farms, towns and at least one city. Their personal loyalty to family and to tribe was instantaneously superseded by loyalty to the king. Later, when kings had chariots, the language of “walk before” became “run before” his chariots. But the appointment language had the same transformational effects on the recipient. This invisible transcendent God used the secular Hittite language formula to let Abram know he was appointed to service in the royal power structure of an invisible kingdom, an infinite kingdom ruled by an infinite King. What Abram knew, Hananiah knew: they were both appointed to political service in a kingdom of cosmic and eternal scope.
This appointment to heavenly citizenship and governance dominated all his thinking. It especially dominated his approach to any role he played in the secular world. For example, as an appointed official in the Babylonian empire, he subordinated all things Babylonian to his primary loyalty to the King of Heaven. This subordination necessarily put him in ethical conflict with his heathen political colleagues as they pursued their secular goals.
It also put him in conflict with his superiors. This meant he was constantly at risk of loss of his freedom and loss of his life. But amid all this ethical conflict and risk, Hananiah knew that the King of All, working from outside of time and space, had so arranged the circumstances, and had so used the evil of evil men to accomplish His purpose of sending Hananiah and many other men of God to labor for His holy purposes in the context of this heathen empire. Hananiah knew he was instructed by the King of All to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” In other words, the King of All commanded His people to work toward what was good for the heathen city—and by extension, the heathen empire—despite its devotion to false gods and sinful practices.
They would grieve over the slavery of their heathen colleagues, some of whom became their friends, to their false view of the universe. They would grieve over their broken hearted condition—thinking that was filled with false presuppositions and logical fallacies, feelings they could not feel correctly, and choices that were clearly not in their best interests. They would grieve as heathen parents murdered their children as sacrifices to idols. And they would grieve over the slavery of the Chief Executive, Nebuchadnezzar, to his false gods. Even as he threatened them with death for not worshipping his gods, they probably felt compassion for his lost and broken hearted condition.
So also today, Reformation Man grieves to see the nation abandon the rule of law. He grieves to watch the population abandon the earth-shaking assertion in the Declaration of Independence— “all men are created equal”—that so moved President Lincoln, that stood unique in the history of human governance, a direct challenge to the brutal patriarchy, tribalism, elitism and racism of all previous earthly governments. He grieves to see the frightened majority abandon their heritage, principles of representative democracy and republican government, for just another shabby, self-serving elitist oligarchy, a United States of Mafia; Orwell’s Animal Farm bullied by greedy pigs.
But Reformation Man, like Hananiah and Daniel, is not discouraged; while he grieves, he revels in his service to the Good King. He prays for the heathen nation, and seeks its welfare, just as he has been commanded by his Great Captain. He asks his King to turn the hearts of the heathen bullies away from their evil and toward His good. He applies his mind and energy to work out the best solutions to their problems. He builds supporting arguments for heathen decision makers and stakeholders, not on the Bible they neither read nor acknowledge, but on what is in their best interests. Up to the point where they demand his disobedience to God Most High, he serves them relentlessly. He acknowledges the increasing risk to his freedom and his life in the darkening days, but he also knows his King will relentlessly transform even the worst man can do to His great good. It’s what He does; it’s who He is.
And he knows that his King will resurrect him, along with Hananiah, Daniel and many, many others He has appointed to His service. Together they will continue their proper service to the Great King of All, enjoying His great good, without the grief, without the death; just pure joy in creative, constructive governance over an elegant new universe.