Suppose that King Nebuchadnezzar was still around and demanding that everyone bow down and worship his golden, 90-foot statue tomorrow morning. I imagine that the response from some who claim to be Christians would go something like this.
Dear Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,
Tomorrow is the day that King Nebuchadnezzar has set aside as a day to publicly worship at his new statue. Recently I became aware of your intention to disobey our king’s command and remain standing while all of the rest of us bow. I have serious problems with anyone who would dare to do such a thing but especially when those resisting claim to be men of faith.
This is a public act of worship. That is obvious from the location of the event which is hardly off of the beaten path. When the three of you are in the privacy of your homes, you are free to worship as you please. But once you set foot into the public square, you relinquish those rights. I, like the three of you, am a Christian. But I am confident enough in my Christianity to know when it’s time to turn it off.
Also, I have a hard time making sense of your supposed Christian faith as it relates to the blatant arrogance that you plan to show by refusing to bow. Who are you to say that your way is right? But by standing up while the rest of us bow, you are saying essentially that. Bowing would not prove that your way is not right. It would just show that ours is too. And hasn’t our world grown big enough for there to be more than one road that leads us home? I think that it has. I only wish that the three of you would as well.
You three men are more than mere citizens. The king has put you in positions of leadership. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a leader in society, especially government, while holding to your ancient texts about having, “no other gods before me.” Either your god is government or he is governed. There can be no third way. That’s sort of the point of the king’s 90-foot statue. No one is higher or more exalted than he is. Not even the god of your ancient texts. It is horrifying to know that men in such positions of influence are themselves influenced by words that were written thousands of years ago and have absolutely nothing to do with anyone today.
If, when the music begins playing tomorrow, you remain standing, there will be at least two charges for you to deal with. First, this will be considered a hate crime. Can you even see far enough through your spiritual fog to think of what this will do to all of the others who are bowing? Think of how uncomfortable they will feel. Think of how threatened they will feel. A society like ours that is built on love and tolerance will not stand for differences of opinion on matters of religion.
But second, and most important, your refusal to bow will be seen as an act of defiance against the state. That is why we will be watching you tomorrow. It’s not like you’ll be hard for us to spot. Fanatics like your kind have a way of sticking out when they are surrounded by a sea of free thinkers like myself. Once the evidence of your rebellion is gathered, we will take it directly to the king. And who is the god who will deliver you out of his hands?
Men have been killed for less treasonous acts. I expect nothing less than the furnace for anyone refusing to bow to our king. Tomorrow, prepare to bow or prepare to burn.
I have nothing against your god. As I have said, I too am a Christian. But the god I serve is a god of love, tolerance and acceptance of diverse beliefs, lifestyles and acts of worship. As best I can tell from the three of you, your god is one of hate and rebellion. And, as you will find out tomorrow if you end up in the furnace, such a god will do you no good while you burn. I suppose that we’re all to expect your author of ancient texts to come down to be with you in the furnace? Hardly!
My only hope in all of this is that perhaps I will get to be one of the men who puts the three of you into the furnace. At least for a second you will see the futility of your faith as I flourish and you burn. It’s not that hard, gentlemen. All you have to do is bow when the music plays.
There is none greater than our king. He will live forever. He will be worshiped forever. It’s just too bad that you three won’t get to be a part of that.
I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, gentlemen.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:28-30 (ESV)