Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And He humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-11 (TLB)
I finished yesterday by pointing out Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were not the only Hebrews slaves in Babylon. Something made them different.
I used a couple of passages from the New Testament today. If forced to explain Daniel’s difference in one word, I’d use humble. Since I don’t have to limit myself to one word, let me explain.
I think there were three groups of Hebrew slaves.
People are people, so I’m sure there were many Hebrew slaves who acted out in defiance, zealous to maintain the life they thought was right. This group opposed to the pagan culture—outspoken in their convictions. No doubt, the Babylonians heard the truth and then silenced that group.
Those who silently went along with the indoctrination populated the second group. Overcome by the brutality and subtlety of the Babylonian culture, this group conformed. We don’t hear about them because they ended up looking like Babylonians.
Then there were the four. The four who were determined in their convictions—rebelling against the culture wasn’t necessary—they simply lived a different life. When confronted, they responded with respect and humility, explaining why they chose to be different and then living out that explanation with God’s help.
Humility vs. Compromise
I am not a middle-of-the-road person—please don’t think that. If you’re concerned that I’m suggesting as Christians we live a life of compromise and lily-livered mediocrity, let me ask you this: how difficult is it to be humble? How much work does it take to hold your convictions humbly? How much humility does it take to:
- live in peace (with those who are not like you)
- be an encouragement, generous and patient
- rejoice about everything (even being a slave)
- pray about everything (even when you’re carried away to live in a foreign land)
- deny yourself and the course that would be easy, just to please God
Do you think your life would look different to those around you if you lived this way? Do you think we as believers would look different to non-believers if we interacted this way?
Think about how different Jesus looked. He didn’t wear a cross necklace, listen to Christian music, have a Christian fish bumper sticker on His donkey, or carry a big Bible. He was humble enough to live like us. He encouraged the weak. He healed the sick. He taught the thick-headed with love and kindness. He went to the hurting, sick, voiceless and forgotten—He didn’t make them come to Him.
As believers, many think being weirdly different is the answer. Others try to blend in so much that the difference is unnoticeable. Then there are the few who get it—those who can manage the humble walk to which God calls all of us—to be different in an attractive, productive way.
That kind of life doesn’t come from our effort.
God’s grace makes the believer different. It’s not what we do or don’t do or how we look—it’s God’s grace enabling us to live strong, humble, peaceful lives in a dissipated, proud, chaotic world.
Let’s use the salmon analogy for a moment.
Salmon must stay in the water, like all fish. The salmon that would try to defy that truth would soon die on the beach. The salmon is not heroic or smart when he’s so different that he pridefully leaves the dirty water to live a better life than the rest of the salmon. That death is only a testament to its own failed efforts.
The salmon that chooses to stay in the ocean dies quietly and unnoticed. The easy way out ends with a fizzle not a bang. Nothing comes from a salmon content to stay in the ocean.
The salmon that makes a difference, the one noticed, is the one swimming against the tide. Not in prideful defiance but driven by deep desire. The salmon that swims against the tide is the one noticed because it seems unnatural to the onlooker. In reality, it’s the salmon simply doing what the salmon was made to do that draws attention. Compared to all the other fish swimming with the tide, the salmon seems unusual and interesting.
The believer’s call is to swim against the tide, because that’s what you’re made to do. Humble obedience is noticeable. Joy in the face of adversity is intoxicating. Love is attention-getting. God’s grace is the power and the motivator. Prayer is the key that makes it possible.
Father, I admit my journey is not always noticeable. When it is, it’s often for the wrong reasons. Give me the power I need to swim against the tide always drawing attention to You—Your love and grace. When my willful pride gets in the way, remind me of Jesus’ example. When I’m content to float, motivate me with Your love. Make me different. Make me like You.