Freedom of religion and conscience in the Bible – Daniel 6

The Scriptures are filled with witness of how the believers’ faith collides with the deception of ungodly leaders in government and society. One such example we find in Daniel 6.

The excellence in Daniel’s work for the king becomes a source of envy for his “co-workers” in ruling the regions of the empire. They realize that they will not be able to catch him in a work-related blunder so they decide that his faith will be the reason for his fall. The anti-religious freedom lobbyists go to the king and ask him to pass a law that will mandate that for 30 days no one will pray to any other god but him, the king. “Not a bad idea,” the ruler thought.
As soon as the law was passed Daniel, who is known for his faithfulness to governing the business of the state, clearly decides to break the law. One would think – “What is his problem!? Couldn’t he wait 30 days? God would not get hurt if his important servant escaped unscathed from this vile attempt on his success from his enemies?” However, instead of thinking to himself: “This law shall also pass. I can stay low for a month and will go back to serving God as normal!”, Daniel goes full frontal disobedience.

At stake is the name of God vs. the name of the king. For Daniel it is a matter of life and death, a matter of worship. Who is greater? God or the king?

Instead of hiding, now that the anti-religious freedom law is passed, Daniel opens his windows wide and prays 3 times a day facing Jerusalem. So that all can witness that he is breaking the king’s law. He welcomes the confrontation with the earthly authorities who challenge the name of his God. Only in such confrontation, brought up by the ungodly, not by God, the name of the Most High can be proved as higher that all else. Without the battle there is no victory.

But Daniel’s dedication, will, and faith were critical in this victory. Because the danger for his life from the hungry lions was quite tangible, so was God’s deliverance from this clear and present danger. The freedom to obey the law of God vs. the law of the state, on matters of conscience, was perfectly exemplified in this dramatic biblical exchange. Daniel’s example is perfectly relevant for us Christians of the 21st century.

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