Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them... 'If you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?'
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. 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.'
I'm racking my brain to think of a more terrifying situation.
An unhinged king sets up what was surely the most stunning spectacle they'd ever seen in their lives: a dazzling 90-foot golden statue, accompanied by the most beautiful music ever played. People wouldn't have needed much persuasion to 'enter in' to this prescribed time of worship.
On top of the temptation to worship this great statue was the social pressure. All of their neighbours and colleagues would be joining in. Then you have the next layer of pressure – all the bigwigs in that society had been wheeled out publicly, so everyone knew all the powerful people would comply with this, and they would be watching you. If all this wasn't enough persuasion to follow the king's edict, the threat of being thrown into a blazing furnace might just have tipped the scales.
Everyone in Babylon complies. Well, pretty much everyone. At least three don't – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They get busted. Now here they are, before the king and his entourage. He's furious! But they have a choice: worship the statue and we'll forget this ever happened. Don't worship it, and the fire will consume you like kindling. The heat was on!
Yet their response to all this was as cool as the other side of your pillow. They're polite, but they're clear. There's a lot they had gone along with, like serving within an oppressive regime, and having their Jewish names replaced with pagan ones. But they drew the line at this. They would rather burn than worship anyone other than the one true God. They had made a decision, and nothing would dissuade them.
Perhaps your factory, classroom, or street is a bit like Babylon. And like those three young men, you need to draw some red lines. Maybe you already have? 'I won't allow defective goods onto the lorry.' 'I won't look at that porn clip everyone has gathered around.' 'I'm not going to slag off that neighbour... even though their parking is terrible.' Making the decision to be faithful in the coolness of the barracks makes it easier to remain faithful in the heat of the frontline.
As you live in this beautiful, complex, and fallen world, may the Lord give you wisdom to know where you need to draw red lines. And may he give you the courage in those moments you particularly need it.
Joe Warton is part of the Church Team – Research & Development at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This article was first published on the LICC website and is printed here with permission.