This is one aimed just at the guys, but girls feel free to read along if you wish. And if there is interest I’ll try and get someone to do a similar article for you – leave a wee comment or get in touch in some other way if you would like such an article.
There are all sorts of expectations put on guys today to live a certain way going through school, uni etc, both by the media and by our own peers. The big question is who do we let define our identity – society’s expectations or Jesus’ ultimate example? In this article I’m going to take a look at what it means for us to be young men of God, based from the example of Daniel (the guy from the lion’s den.)
Society tells us that the most important thing is to have a good time and not worry about the consequences, what counts is enjoying ourselves, but Jesus says that the most important things are to love God and to love others. Loving God means striving not to do things that grieve Him, and loving others means treating them with the respect they deserve as a person made in God’s image.
In the Bible Daniel gives us a great example of how to be a young man of God when society around you is going the total opposite way. In Daniel chapter 1 we find him dropped 500 miles into an alien culture when the Babylonians take him and his companions captive. For us, as people who are called to be ‘not of this world’, the culture we are in is alien, and we should “not be conformed to the patterns of the world” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
Daniel is offered the best royal food – yet he refuses to eat it: “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 – Daniel refuses to give in to society’s expectations, he doesn’t settle for acting like everybody else, but seeks to do only what will glorify God. There was no Biblical law that prevented him from eating this food, but it would have compromised his identity as a follower of God, making him no different from the Babylonians. The application there for us is firstly that people we try and get us to act like them – to ‘eat their food’, to share the kind of jokes they laugh at, to talk about girls in the manner they do, to have a few drinks on a night out, to compromise our identity as men of God. And secondly, there are many things that aren’t wrong for us to do, but that as men of God we may chose not to do to show that we are different from those who are of the world. For example, given that we are called to make disciples of all nations, to love mercy and to show justice, is getting a perfect killscore on Call of Duty the best way to be spending our time?
Society says that guys don’t do as well as girls academically. In Daniel 1:17-19 we learn how Daniel did academically: “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service”
Whatever God has given you an aptitude for you need to put your all into it, even if it is something that people tell you you don’t have a chance with. Even if it is something that society says you don’t need to bother with. Just because you are a guy from a certain area doesn’t mean that has to limit what you can become. Our identity is found in the God who says all things are possible rather than in what culture expects of us.
Finally, a quick bit about girls. Because while there is no mention of any love-life for Daniel (or indeed any women at all) a huge part of our identity as men of God is how we treat members of the fairer sex. Firstly, we shouldn’t be judging/rating them on outward appearances. The Bible says that God looks at the heart, and so should we. It is so commonly done when you have a few guys together, you start giving girls scores out of 10 (and of course there is no such thing as the perfect 10…), but it isn’t the way we should be looking at girls, and as people who are not of this world we should strive not to judge girls in the way the world does.
Also, we shouldn’t put unrealistic expectations on our female friends to dress and look a certain way based on heavily made-up, overly photoshopped images of celebrities. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 women are told “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewellery, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” That is the kind of beauty we should do our best to encourage.
The Bible says that wives should submit to their husbands. This means we have a responsibility now (whether or not you are in a serious relationship) to live in such a way that when we end up getting married we will have earned the right to have our wife submit to us, that we will have the spiritual maturity required.
I want to challenge all of you guys reading this (and any girls that have gatecrashed too) to, in the words of the kids song “Dare to be a Daniel” – radically different from those around you, refusing to compromise your faith to fit in, putting your best shot into what God has given you a talent for, appreciating girls for who they are, not what they look like, and seeking to help your sisters in Christ grow closer to him rather than being a stumbling block for them.