Alienate & Integrate
From the time he entered Babylon, as a forced refugee, the prophet Daniel was wary of the culture around him.
While others were willing to lose themselves in all the glamour and glitter of what this powerful and cultured city had to offer, Daniel and his friends refused to trust themselves to the world as they found it.
Daniel's first assignment was hardly an onorous one: he was commanded to eat the king's meat -- food fit for a king! (Daniel 1:5-8.) He refused the offer -- not because he was on a health kick, but because he saw this as just the first step on a slippery slope of luxury and comfort that would dull his senses and swallow up his identity.
This was Nebuchadnezzar's ploy with all his captives: to alienate and integrate, to remove their rightful sense of identity under God and replace with an identity of his own making. Daniel built a personal 'firewall' to protect his identity and to control what influences affected him.
A firewall is a mechanism that protects your PC from what could otherwise invade the system from outside, stealing your files or infecting your drive. The firewall safeguards the integrity of the system and everything in it.
We should never make the mistake of assuming that the culture around us is harmless. Without being paranoid, we should ensure that we maintain control over what stories get released and what keeps playing in the cinema of our minds. See 1 Pet 5:8-9 tells us to, 'Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up…' (The Message)
Jesus told us that we are '…the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.' (Matt 5:13.)
In relation to food, salt has always had two purposes: to preserve the quality of food and to flavour it in a way that is pleasing to the palate. Our calling in this secular age is also two-fold: to preserve righteousness in the world and to 'flavour' the world in a way that is pleasing to God.
Salt preserves and flavours by being in direct contact with the food. In Jesus' day, huge blocks of salt stored in contact with food, so that salt permeated every part of the food over time. In our time, there are two things that will prevent us from playing our rightful role of influence in this world.
One is losing contact with the world and mistaking isolation for separation. The other is losing our distinctiveness, our uniqueness, our 'saltiness'. If the church offers nothing more than a mirror image, slightly sanitised version of the prevailing culture, we have nothing unique to offer the world. We should never allow culture around us to rob us of our unique identity, kingdom 'flavour'.
So much of our culture's influence comes to us via the electronic media. The proliferation of media has given us many benefits: the democratisation of much of the world, access to finances, access to instant information and much more. But we must not assume that media influence is just 'harmless fun'. This is one area where we need a strong firewall. How can you build such a firewall?
Keep Your Standards High
What is distateful today is normal or even desirable tomorrow. If the media reflects something long enough, it starts reinforcing it. Turn off what doesn't deserve your time and attention.
Keep An Eye On Your Privacy
Personal information about you - from your credit card details to information on what you like to buy - is increasingly being shared across computer networks. We need to be careful what we 'sign' on-line.
Keep Relationships Alive
If we don't discipline our media habits we can become lazy when it comes face-to-face relationships. We need to keep building 'real-time' friendships. If your computer or TV blew up tomorrow, would you still have many friends?
Respect Achievement More Than Celebrity
In an age where the image is often more important than the reality, we need to remember that God is still impressed with what's in the heart! We need to make sure our heroes are people who do significant things in real life.
Don't be an Advertising Junkie
Advertisers are all about one thing: they want to create a need in your mind and then fill it. Don't allow yourself to become an impulse buyer - think before you buy - and don't develop the habit of buying to change your moods. And be careful what you do with credit: its easy to wave credit cards around, but there really is 'no such thing as a free lunch'.
Let your Convictions, not your Pop-Culture, Drive your Decisions
Mother Teresa was respected and even applauded by people who had no time for some of the things she said. What they responded to was her right to say those things. She possessed a moral influence that gave her the right to express strong opinions. She was a woman of great influence because she was driven by her convictions, and not by the winds of popular opinion.