Loyalty, Unity, and Faith
I am currently preaching through the book of Daniel. By the way, if you are in Bismarck or Mandan and don’t have a church, I would love for you to join us.
But as I am getting ready to preach on Daniel chapter 3 this week something just hit me hard that I think I need to process, and maybe not in the sermon, so here it is on the web instead. I might bring this out on Sunday, I haven’t decided yet.
First of all, you gotta understand that Daniel chapter 3 is about three guys who refuse to bow down before an image that “King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” The reader is told many times over that this was something the king did. Why did he do it? Why did King Nebuchadnezzar “set up this image?”
Simply put, the king wanted unity. The king wanted everyone to subordinate whatever other gods they worshiped, whatever other values they held, underneath the banner of his own authority. He wanted to see all the different peoples, perspectives, viewpoints, and value systems bent side by side under the authority of his kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be the guy to erase Babel.
See, earlier in the Bible, way back in Genesis 11, we are given an explanation for the disunity and disharmony we notice among humanity. Why do we fight each other? Why do we always seem to be at each other’s throats? We all have our own passions and desires that are opposed to each other in our fellow humans.
Babel started this. Babel was a lesson to humanity that there would be no peace, no unity, no glory, no hope, apart from him.
Nebuchadnezzar believed he could oppose the creator (just like his ancestors in the same place we read about in Genesis 11) and create unity around a statue. A statue that “he had set up.” Poor, naive, foolish, arrogant Nebuchadnezzar.
There can be no unity among humanity around anything until the day that every knee kneels down and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.
One lesson of the chapter is that there is only one place that we can unify. There is only one person where all of humanity can discover unity.
Another lesson from the chapter is that until the end of history there will be Nebuchadnezzars demanding that everyone bow down to the idols they erected. And until the end of history they will fail.
Those who demand that you recognize their right to kneel will fail.
Those who demand that you stand will fail.
Those who demand that you recognize the thing they love will fail.
Those who demand that you respect the symbols of the things that they love will always fail.
All of them will fail. Sure, they will shift things. Yes, it’s possible that kneeling will bring awareness to things that should probably be noticed. Yes, maybe calling everyone to stand might raise the expectations for mutual respect in a given society.
But let me tell you, what won’t ever happen around these things. Unity will never happen around the things you demand.
Nope. It can’t.
There is only one way unity can occur.
It is for the player on his knees on the field to know that he is wrong. To know that all his efforts at justice or awareness are somewhat self centered even if they are noble.
It is for the NFL team owner to recognize that he doesn’t have the ability, skills, or power to adequately handle the situation he is in.
It is for the president to recognize that he is a self centered sinner who needs to look to someone higher, wealthier, and much more important than himself.
It is for the press and media representatives to say “everyone is wrong, selfish and arrogant, including us.”
There are only two ways we can unify.
Together we have to say – we are all wrong. This point has to be shared. There are so many of us who want to say “you are all wrong.” We want to blast it in our Facebook posts and our comment threads. We want desperately to make everyone agree with us, because after all, we are right and you are wrong! The only way we can find unity is if everyone else agrees with me!
Yet while we debate, the God of the ages stands up from his throne. The holy of holies and the ancient of days descends from heaven. He looks into our arrogant, self-centered eyes and he thunders down upon all mortal flesh with a loud vengeance, “you are all wrong! How dare you defend some point of unity arising from the affairs of man!? How dare you lift up your small ideas of bias and rights and flags and sacrifices. How dare you place anything whatsoever apart from my son and the blood he shed in any position where you would even begin to suspect that it could erase Babel!? Of course your efforts at unity will fail! They all fall short of the cross! How dare you cheapen the blood of my only son? How dare you think that a piece of cloth or a dearly held belief, or injustice or anything under heaven would ever accomplish what the cross has done? How dare you believe that there can ever be any human unity apart from the cross?”
No! There is only one hope for us. The only hope for unity is that all mankind tremble before the holy one. That every lip fall silent and every face drop to the dust in awareness that we have no answers. That we confess that we are wrong about so much.
There is no way that every man, woman, and child in our borders would adore our flag. There is no way to ensure that every law enforcement officer is not a racist. There is no way to force others to accept what we believe. Because we ourselves are so short sighted and arrogant and ignorant in all of our opinions.
And the second way we unify (after we all recognize that we are wrong) is that together we say “you alone Lord, God are right.” That we recognize that we all struggle with racism and ill defined patriotism. That we all struggle with a variety of biases. That we all are wrong and God alone is right. He is right to call us wrong, and he is right to set us right by the work of the cross.
This cross that demanded everything of Jesus, must surely demand no less from us.
He is right to demand that we submit completely to him and let all other temporary interests take a backseat to love and sacrifice. He is right and we are wrong.
Here we are in our culture ripping each other to pieces because we are all so insistent that we are right and the other is wrong. We need to admit that on our best days we are fools hoping and grasping for lesser and insignificant things. We need to get on our faces before the throne. It is the only way we can possibly hope to find any lasting meaning, hope, or unity.