Minority: For the first time since researchers began tracking the religious affiliation of Americans, the United States does not have a Protestant majority. Last week, the Pew Forum released a study showing that only 48 percent of Americans identify with the Protestant faith, while 20 percent claim to be atheist, agnostic or no religion . How are we, as Christians, to live in a pluralistic society? Do we assimilate? Separate?
Exile: King Nebuchadnezzar took the Israelites from Israel, where the culture supported the worship of the Lord, to Babylon, where the culture was hostile to it. He then selected a few of the elites to undergo Babylonian leadership training. After three years of education in enchanting, astrology and divining, they stood before the king and received new names. “Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.” Although these men mastered the Babylonian culture and received Babylonian names, they did not forsake the Lord or His Law. And He gave them favor before the king: “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” .
Distinct: These men excelled in the pagan Babylonian culture, but they lived distinctly as believers in the Lord. They did not assimilate or separate. Instead, they lived with integrity in the pluralistic, polytheistic and unbelieving world of Babylon. As we know, this is not easy. On the one hand, we must ask, “How does the gospel affect how we live and work?” If we are not asking this question, we have assimilated. On the other hand, we have no rulebook or list to follow. Yes, we have the Word, but we need wisdom. If we despair of having to do the hard work of seeking out wisdom, then we have isolated ourselves.
Prayer: Lord, As we look to the cross, we see Jesus, who did not assimilate or isolate himself. Instead, he became man and dwelt among us. Yet he lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law to redeem us. Teach us to look to him, the ultimate exile who became sin for us. Set our minds to seek wisdom from your Word so that we know how to live as Christians in our pluralistic society. Amen. 
 The Pew Forum. “‘Nones’ on the Rise: One in Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation.” 9 October 2012. See also Laurie Goodstein. “Number of Protestant Americans Is in Steep Decline, Study Finds.” The New York Times. 9 October 2012; Natasha Lennard. “Non-religious on the rise.” Salon. 9 October 2012. |  Daniel 1:20-21 ESV |  For additional reflection on this passage, see Tim Keller. “The Dream of the Kingdom.” 30 April 2000. Sermon on Daniel 3:14-29.