There was a time when the people of Judah were taken away captive into Babylon as a judgment from God as a result of their continued disregard for God’s commandments. Obviously, many of the people adjusted well to the culture of Babylon and adopted its values and practices as their own. Possibly they thought to themselves that now that they were in Babylon they might as well live like Babylonians. In that process they forgot their God, what He had done for them, what He had promised them and what He had told them to do and not to do. Slowly, for all practical purposes, they lost their original identity as the people of God and became Babylonians.
The few among the people of Judah, such as Daniel and his three friends, who refused to give up their God and their identity did meet some challenges. It meant that they had to continuously face the fact that they were different from the Babylonians and that these differences were going to cause conflicts. Sometimes they even had to stand against the emperor’s direct orders in order to obey their own God. But their allegiance to God helped them to rise above these challenges and stand faithful to Him. Ultimately, after seventy years, many of these people were able to return to Judah when the Lord restored them from their captivity.
Our situation as Christians in this world is somewhat like the people of Judah living in a foreign land. We are not under captivity, and there is no judgment of God upon us. But there is a constant conflict between us who want to follow the ways of God and the world system that wants us to conform to it in every way. And this conflict is becoming stronger as the world is placing more and more pressure on us to compromise.
Jesus Christ is Lord. But for the time being, Satan is still the prince of this world. There will come a time when Jesus establishes His kingdom and Satan is cast eternally into the lake of fire. But till then we can see that he is doing his best to increase the pressure on us. All through these 2000 years of Christianity, God’s people have felt this pressure and concluded that the end days were upon them and that Jesus was going to come again in their lifetime. Even though we do not know when He will come, at this point it is clear that His coming is nearer now than ever because Satan’s pressure is greater than ever before.
There is pressure on us to ‘open up’ our mind beyond the so-called narrow-minded view that Jesus is the only way to God, and accept the plurality of paths that the world follows. If we really know our God, His ways and all that He has taught us about His nature and character, it would be impossible for us to reconcile intellectually or morally with these ‘alternative paths’. But Satan is only going to keep up the pressure hoping that someday we may buckle under it.
Corruption has become a way of life around the world, even though it is in the developing countries like India that it goes on in an open way. The general public seems to reconcile with this fact and take the position that if we have to survive in this world we have to be pragmatic about it.
Marriages, and the institution of marriage itself, are under great threat for breakup. Some marriages are falling apart within as short a time as one week. At the same time, the pressures of ordinary life are becoming so hard that couples do not have time to sit down and sort out their issues. Statistics of many marriages breaking down is discouraging many young people from getting married, and many of them are opting for live-in arrangements without the hassle of a legal procedure. Gay activists seem to be gaining power through intimidation in moving the minds of people to accept homosexual behaviours and even same sex marriages as normal. On the other hand, even school going children are under peer pressure to hitch up with boyfriends and girlfriends because the social stigma of being the odd one in the peer group without such a friend is becoming unbearable. Pre-marital sex, which was happening even earlier, is now becoming more common and reaching down to the start of adolescence.
Satan is using the media to confuse the mind concerning morality and diffuse the difference between right and wrong. The fashion world is becoming more revealing and provocative; movies and TV are depicting the world of relationships and casual sex as enjoyable and acceptable. Pornography is a multibillion dollar industry that no government seems to be able to bring down, and its destructive influence over men and women, boys and girls, families and society is rising rapidly. What used to be done or talked about secretly because of the fear of public shame is now being displayed unabashedly.
Aroused with passion through what they see in the media, people are looking for pleasure through prostitution, and a section of the people are procuring the services of ‘massagers’, ‘escorts’, ‘travel companions’, etc. The world-wide tragedy of kidnapping and trafficking of girls is growing rapidly in spite of many attempts to stop it.
In their pursuit after comfort and better living, people are allowing themselves to be pushed along by the work pressure, and the victims are their own personal happiness, their health, their relationships and, especially, their children. Parental abuse resulting from the pressures parents are facing in their own lives, and parental neglect coming out of their unavailability are making the newer generations independent from their parents. They grow up without the benefit of the affection and care that only parents can give, and many of them become disrespectful, defiant and uncaring towards the parents. Growing up without normal psychological development which is nourished by parental affection, care and discipline, such children tend to suffer from different forms of a warped personality.
The lures of pleasure and peer pressure are drawing large numbers of young people to start substance abuse (alcohol, drugs) and many of them are getting addicted. This not only affects their own health, mind and relationships, but it also spoils their entire future.
Many young people are being drawn to the world of demons through experimenting with occult practices, most of them starting them out of curiosity or seeking thrill. Once Satan has caught them in his hands and he turns around and begins to torment them, they find themselves incapable of escaping. Satan worship in an open form is also not as rare in our cities as we would like to imagine.
Anyone who wishes to stand with Jesus and live for Him faces the heat of this world (2Tim.3:12). The pressure is on us to compromise. The more we adapt to the ways of the world, the less we will have to face the attack. The number of those who remain faithful to Jesus is a smaller percentage than the number of people who would identify themselves as Christians or even claim to be following Jesus.
Daniel made a decision not to defile himself with the food from the court of the king of Babylon (Dan.1:8). In our context that would seem to be a ‘legalistic’ or ‘naïve’ thing to do. One has to be practical, they say. But it is the sum total of the small decisions that we make in our life that defines who we are in the sight of God. What we buy and what we wear also are indications of what we stand for. Daniel was a rare man who started off well and who was consistently faithful to God till the end.
Can we make a conscious choice to stand for Jesus and follow His word even if we have to face extra hardship and challenges for that in this life? God’s eye is always on the remnant of His people whom He knows as those who love Him. He is not impressed by the large numbers who speak His name but do not do what He says. Certainly we are going to be tempted again and again on different occasions to bend a little bit in order to avoid suffering. But it is when we choose to suffer with Jesus ‘outside the camp’ (Heb.13:13,14), that Jesus will recognise us as those who value Him more than everything else (Gen.22:12). Shall we dedicate ourselves to be in that remnant, in the midst of the compromise that is going around? God needs this witness for Him in the midst of the world. When the darkness is increasing all around us, He needs us to shine brightly as lights in this world (Matt.5:14). “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev.3:21).