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But Even If He Doesn’t… | President’s Blog

January 24, 2022

“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:18

Psychologists define peer pressure as occurring when a peer group exerts direct or indirect pressure to behave in a certain way. While the “peers” with respect to peer pressure have most often been understood as a group of similarly situated persons an individual knows personally, this is not always the case. For example, in some instances, the “peers” in peer pressure may refer to the larger culture; consider cultural influences from television, from movies, from music, and now, most notably, from social media. Conversations about the effects of peer pressure on children are at a fever pitch today as a result of the influence we recognize social media has on adolescents.

I find no better models for withstanding intense peer pressure than Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego, the three Hebrew boys from the third chapter of the Book of Daniel. Their story has always appealed to me. But it is the end of the story that has consumed my attention. I was enthralled with what happened after their refusal to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar as God miraculously saved them from the heat and flames.

It is only in recent years that I have given much more attention to their act of refusal. Let me remind you that literally everyone around them was bowing down. Everyone else was doing it. AND they were now face to face with a king, who was consumed with rage and ready to send them to their deaths for refusing to bow down. As I think about the circumstance of these young men and their refusal to bow to the king, I find it helpful to remind myself that they did not know they would be saved. Yes, they knew without question that God could save them, but they did not know that he would.

silhouette of woman at sunrise

How different is the story for you when you do not know that, in the end, after the king is overtaken with fury and casts the boys into the furnace, they are not consumed by the flames? If you cannot be sure that they will be saved, that their lives will be spared in the end, do you think differently about their refusal to bow down, to succumb to what was undoubtedly incredible pressure?

Not everyone who stands on the word of God, who refuses to bow down to other gods, walks out of the furnace on this side of glory, even in the scriptures. John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen was stoned to death. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, was killed by Herod. Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego truly had no idea whether God would actually save them from the fiery furnace. But what I have come to love and admire most about their story and their faith are their words in Daniel 3:18:

“But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

We might think that their circumstance is different from anything we might encounter today in the U.S. I would agree it is unlikely that, during our lifetimes, at least in the U.S., we would face the prospect of death by fire for refusing to bow down to a literal golden image. But I submit to you that metaphorical golden images are constructed all the time with the expectation that we will genuflect in their direction. Bow down. And like our Hebrew friends, we deal with the pressure of seeing nearly everyone around us bowing down. Nodding their heads. Going along in agreement. And the truth is, we sometimes find it difficult to stand on what we know to be God’s truth when we see everyone around us bowing down. Nodding in agreement. Going along.

While the penalty for refusing to bow down, nod our head, go along, is not a literal fiery furnace, it can very well be social isolation or ostracism. The metaphorical furnace for us could be social media bullying and outrage. Name calling. Loss of friends. The danger of not being considered for certain opportunities. The fire we face for refusing to bow down might not be literal, but it is hot. It is hot enough for us to consider putting our faith and God’s truth on the shelf, maybe just for a little while. Just this time. Just in this instance.

The question I pose to you, my friends, is whether you will allow peer pressure and the heat of the flames make you bow down. Will you succumb to the images, the idolatry, the lies, the sin, the outright foolishness that everyone around you seems to be bowing down to? Has fear of the flames—or, in our case, fear of social media, fear of what others will say or think about you—influenced you to the point where you are willing to bow down just to get along? Just a little? Just this time? Just on this issue? Just for this relationship? The heat of flames can have that effect. But that does not have to be the case, and it is not too late for you to declare to yourself and to those around you that you will not bow down. That you will stand on the truth of God and declare that your God is, in fact, able to deliver you from the flames—but even if he doesn’t, you are going to stand for the truth of God. You are going to stand for love of Christ. You will not bow down to the golden images of our day, to lies, to heresy, to idolatry, to hatefulness, to unforgiveness. The choice is yours.


President Wayne D. Lewis Jr.

About the Author

With 20 years of experience in education, higher education leadership is a calling for Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., President of Houghton College. He is recognized as being a champion for students; focusing on improving educational access, opportunities and experiences for students, including those who have historically been underserved.

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