Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18
I can recall only once or twice that I have been ridiculed for my faith. One such time was when I was serving churches in Utah and Colorado. We lived in Vernal, Utah, where there was a heavy Mormon population – estimated to be somewhere in the range of 75% of the total population. Most of our neighbors and acquaintances were friendly and polite. One day, however, as I was leaving the gas station, heading from Vernal to Rangely, Colorado, and wearing my clerical collar, I was greeted with the “one finger salute”. It was clear to me that I was being singled out because I was a clergyman.
Mormons have a particularly bad opinion of clergy – especially any who might look like the Roman Catholic type. I suppose I looked the part. I didn’t let it bother me, but obviously it made somewhat of an impression. That was 38 years ago!
Aren’t Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego putting themselves into a ridicule ripe position when they answer the king as they did? “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter…our God…will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
I can imagine the indignation of the guards, the ridicule of the king’s attendants, and the ire of the king himself at such words. They must have thought, You’ve got to be kidding me! Do you have any idea how hot that furnace really is? Do you know how severe the pain will be? Can you even imagine the fierce rage you are facing? What cheek! What insolence! What sagaciousness! You make me laugh. I almost feel sorry for you.
I hope never to face the severe trials these men of God endured. I hope never to be told, “Bow down or else.” I fear such a trial might undo me. Perhaps, however, that is not the point for us. We are more likely to face more subtle ridicule:
- Why don’t you just go with the flow here. Everyone pads their expense accounts. You can give me a bogus receipt.
- You don’t want to be a stick in the mud, do you? Come on; we’re gonna have a little fun while we’re out of town and away from our wives. It’s just a little harmless entertainment.
- Are you really going to church? Do you really believe that stuff? Hey, tell your husband you don’t feel well and we’ll go to the tea room and gossip.
- Come on, it’s easy: Just slip the purse under your coat. No one will ever notice and you’ll have a new purse. Don’t pull any of the God-stuff on me either; that’s just kill-joy propaganda.
- We can move in together. Everyone is doing it. You can tell your mom that we’ll get married someday. That’ll satisfy her, and you can just let go of all that God-guilt. It’s just old-fashioned prudishness.
What if we answered each of those in one way or another like these three men did? We have no need to answer you. God will sustain me; and I’ll be better for it. But even if I’m left out in the cold, I will not go along with this. That’s a faith that puts you above ridicule – whether it comes in the form of the one-finger-salute, or the threat of financial, physical, or social ruin.