Knowing the Boundaries, Keeping within the Limits

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Image Credit: Scott Cochrane

“But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

Daniel 1:8 NLT

I warmly welcome you for this week’s challenge where I write about the young man Daniel and his other three friends who while living in Babylonia, were very much aware of the extent to which they can conform to the Babylonian culture. They were very conscious about their identity as people belonging to God and wouldn’t like complacence to tarnish their identity. In this post, I purpose to challenge you to consider your identity in Christ while here in the world. On several occasions, the scriptures remind us that we are sojourners, that even though we are in the world, we are not of the world. That we have a citizenship, a citizenship which is not of the earthly but a heavenly one.

There is a say that “when you are in Rome behave like the Romans.” This saying has been used in my community to lure many people from doing what they wouldn’t like to do. Meanwhile in some cases we may have to be like the Romans do what the Romans do while in Rome, we MUST remember that we are not Romans. So I would rather say,

While in Rome, consciously associate freely with the Romans without compromising your values.

Some more than 10 years ago when I had not been for so long into my journey with Christ, I remember an incidence that had put me into a similar scenario like Daniel and I failed to know my limits. I have been nurtured in a Christian context where merry making by drinking beer and wine is not a practice among believers. It is considered a way leading to getting drunk which we are cautioned against in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” Whatever interpretation and practice in your Christian context about the use of wine or alcohol, at least there is an imperative here for us not to be drunk on wine.

So my consciousness was clear that getting drunk on wine will be compromise of my faith. On that faithful day, a friend invited us for lunch and before the meal, he asked us what we would like to drink. I had asked for Coke. However, the person who went to buy the drinks decided to buy beer only. We were served the first bottles and I found it hard to say no, I took it. The second round came and I wasn’t ashamed to say no, I took. I did so with the third and last bottle. This was the only time I took bottled beer in my life. To a larger extent, I was drunk at the end of the lunch.

I was very foolish, foolish enough that I couldn’t say no to what my consciousness wasn’t agreeing with. I was very complacent. Complacence for a Christian can be very dangerous as it makes one easily compromise with sensitive matters concerning his faith. We are living in a world that is infested with a lot of wickedness. We are living in a world that prides of evil and if we do not know our boundaries and keep the limits, we stumble, we fall and we might stray off the faith. As such, the bible challenges conformity, elsewhere it is written “do not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2).

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Daniel and his resolute decision

We read of the story of Daniel in exile. They were taken captive by king Nebuchadnezzar and at the kings order for young men of understanding among the exiles to be trained for noble tasks in the kingdom, Daniel and his three other friends were selected. They were brought in the king’s palace for their training. While in this noble course, Daniel and his friends were presented choice meat and wine from the palace. They were not only to be trained in understanding but also to be fed well that they may be good looking men.

It was probable that some of the foods Daniel and his friends were served could be those forbidden by the Jewish Levitical laws. Such perhaps included meat of animals which don’t chew the cud like pig’s meat or perhaps animals with undivided hooves which the Levitical laws forbid the Jews from eating. Additionally, it was also possible that perhaps these meats could have been offered to idols at the slaughter house before they were brought for consumption. So, Daniel saw it not fit to eat of such meat, he resolved not to eat of the royal foods and wine they were being served. He refused to compromise what would be against his consciousness. He was determined to remain a Jew while in exile.

So he requested that they be served with vegetables and water only. The official responsible for their welfare was worried that these men will not be well built and if it happens so, he stands a chance to lose his job. However, Daniel stood firm and resolved. He was very determined whatsoever never to allow himself defiled by eating the foods and drinks from the royal menu. He insisted for vegetables and water. After some days, they were even much well-built than the official expected. The challenge Daniel fronts to me is to know my boundaries and keep the limits.

A call to Christian living

Our Christian calling is one that is to be lived to some degree of standards. It is not a life bound to laws, do’s and don’ts but there is an ethical and moral standard to which we are called. Throughout the scripture, especially the apostles’ teachings in their epistles is to be found the kind of Christian living to which we are called. Related to Daniel’s story is Paul’s address to the Corinthian church. He writes, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence to God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

This verse alone speaks volumes about the call of a Christian to holy living. In it, it is very explicit that there are certain things that are capable of defiling us not only in spirit but also in body. To Daniel, the unlawful foods and drinks were such things which could defile him. We equally have things that can defile us and unfortunately many Christians have compromised. Some believers are now deep into some of these things such as “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies” (Galatians 5:19-21) which are some of the things the word of God points capable of defiling our bodies.

Any practice of the above will taint us, it will defile us before God, they are the very things that we are being asked to purify our bodies from. Like Daniel, we have to be able to draw a line, see the limits and keep it. If we cannot, then we are unlikely to continue saints, we become defiled, compromised and drift into sin which the Holy God will not tolerate. We ought to be men and women who can determine and say no to the things above and several others unnamed here. If we cannot say no, we will not be obedient children and disobedience casts us away from God.

We shouldn’t allow defilement of any sort because we are redeemed. We have been bought for a price and we have to keep the life for which we have been bought to live. Compromise is uncalled for. I failed my test ten years ago, I thank God I keep growing stronger and stronger every day. That I have more understanding and ability through the Holy Ghost to say no to impurities, to say no to orgies, to say no to lies, to say no to drunkenness, to say no to factions and any other thing that defiles. It is worth growing to that Daniel like faith that knows the boundaries and keeps the limit.

Have you failed to keep the limit and gone beyond the boundaries? Do you find yourself consciously breaking through the boundaries even when your consciousness is aware? You need to seek for strength in the Holy Spirit who ably can guide you from falling into these things. He wills that you don’t get into anything that defiles your body, Christ wills that you follow him daily without yielding to defilement. I ask that in Christ, know your boundaries and keep the limits.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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This message is written by Rev. Julius Izza Tabi who is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway and is an assisting Priest at St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, in Oslo. For any pastoral assistance or support of this ministry you can email Rev. Julius you can also reach  Rev. Julius here.

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