Last week at The Table we cracked open a new series: “In Exile.” Beginning with The book of Daniel and continuing forward in history to the Apostles, we are exploring the plight of spiritual (and physical) exiles in Scripture. The question we’re wresting with is this: “what does faith look like when you’re a thousand miles from safe?”
In Daniel 1, the most talented, capable, good looking young men from the royal families of Judah were hauled away as captives to Babylon. In an instant, every external structure and practice that represented their religion was gone. No temple. No sacrificial system for atonement of sins. No priests. No Ark of the Covenant. No worship services. No Hebrew singing or dancing.
On top of that, they were placed into a program of indoctrination for the next three years fed a steady diet of Babylonian literature, language, and mystical religion.
It’s hard to imagine being in physical isolation and exile like that. As American Christians, we have experienced a period of religious freedom unprecedented in human history. For a long stretch of our nation’s existence, our faith was at the center of our culture. But that is changing. Recently, for the first time since we started keeping track:
“Increasing, if not historic, numbers of Americans are claiming no religious affiliation when asked to state their religious identity.”
What if, as the author of the article predicts:
“…the rise of the “nones” surely suggests it is the end of religion as we know it. Forget churches; forget priests and pastors; forget the Bible; forget organized religion generally. What is sacred are no longer conventional objects like a cross, a singular religious identity like being a Methodist, nor activities like going to church or prayer.”
The story of the Hebrews in exile lets us in on a secret the Huffington Post doesn’t have access to: in EVERY generation of EVERY culture since the dawn of human history, those who choose to acknowledge and honor the Creator of the planet with their time of life on earth have had to lose their religion and embrace a living relationship with the Maker.
The faithful have always had to negotiate new ways to BE faithful in their cultural reality. Sometimes it’s easier, like the “center of culture” respectability the Christian faith enjoyed from the great awakening to the middle of the 20th century in America. But sometimes we live in exile, under the rule of Babylon or Darius or Herod or Nero; forced to risk our freedom and even our lives to obey our conscience and our Lord.
Both have their difficulties. Safe, instituionalized faith can become lifeless. Underground faith can be hazardous to your life or way of life. But those who have been brought from death to life cannot settle for anything less than a life of surrender to their Savior, whether the response from others is apathy or anger.
Join us online or on Sunday nights @ 6pm as we navigate how to be faithful in OUR historical context — from Babylon to Ballard and beyond…
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