Situations arise in which people expect or demand things of us that we are simply unwilling to deliver, and we need wisdom to know how to navigate not only the expectation, but also the relationships.
Daniel was such a man, and we read about his predicament in the first chapter of the book he wrote. It’s in the Bible. A teenaged Hebrew, he found himself a slave in Babylon in 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, the king who had conquered Daniel’s people and would later destroy his beloved Jerusalem, required that he and three of his Hebrew friends start a strict training regimen that included eating food and drinking wine that God had prohibited in the Mosaic Law.
Daniel was walking a tightrope between conviction and cooperation. We’ve all had to do that, and we don’t always do it well.
I define a conviction as a belief I hold so deeply I am willing to die for it. We need to distinguish between opinions and convictions, and often the failure to do so is the start of our problems.
Anyone who would die for an opinion is a fool. Anyone who would not die for a conviction is a coward–or, the conviction is only an opinion after all. Like a good friend and colleague of mine likes to say, “There’s a big difference between agreement and commitment.”
Anyone who would die for an opinion is a fool. Anyone who would not die for a conviction is a coward…
But a conviction must be based on truth. Tragically, thousands of people die each year for convictions founded either on what is untrue or what is unexplored. Blind allegiance to a person or an idea or a religion is not conviction. Conviction requires reasoned conclusions on what has been thoroughly explored. Conviction allows no alternatives.
Cooperation, on the other hand, seeks alternatives. While my conviction may not allow me to do what is requested, a cooperative spirit will provoke me to suggest a reasonable and acceptable alternative if one exists. But conviction, by its very nature, will always trump cooperation.
This was Daniel’s experience. Daniel 1.8 tells us, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.” Conviction.
But verse 12 goes on to demonstrate Daniel’s cooperative spirit by recording his suggestion to the steward: “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.”
Daniel and his three friends knew that if God chose to honour their cooperation by allowing them to thrive on this Spartan diet, nothing would be lost. However, if the plan was unacceptable to the chief of the eunuchs to whom they were answerable, they were willing to die for their convictions.
Both conviction and cooperation should characterize the life of anyone who loves God. Achieving balance between the two is the hard part. But we have this promise in James 1.5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Please pass the Brussels sprouts.
Image of Brussels sprouts with toasted coconut is from www.joyoushealth.ca