No doubt you are familiar with the old phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” It suggests that when visiting a foreign locale, it is polite to abide by their customs. As it pertains to customary greetings, when to drink your coffee, or anything else that is harmless, surely there is some wisdom behind the thought. But, there is a boundary that cannot be crossed. That boundary is God’s will. Peter’s statement in Acts 5:29, that “we ought to obey God rather than men,” is an all-encompassing principle. If abiding by the customs of a foreign land would put me in a position to violate God’s will, then I must not do it.
Christians must keep in mind that we are “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11) in this world. We are “in Rome” everywhere we go. We must be steadfast in our faith so that we do not allow ourselves to abide by the customs of the world that violate the will of God. Daniel is a perfect example. Nebuchadnezzar took him to Babylon in the first deportation to serve in his court. The king wanted his new captives to be trained in the ways of the Chaldeans, and to partake of the “dainties” that the king provided (Dan. 1:4-5). Daniel, however, would not do so. Daniel 1:8 says,
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the kings’ meat, nor with the wine which he drank…”
To “purpose in one’s heart” implies a decided resolution. The Hebrew verb generally means, “to set on,” “to set up,” “to arrange,” or “to fix.” The ESV says, “Daniel resolved” and the NASB says, “Daniel made up his mind.” The emphasis is very clear. Daniel made a conscious and well-informed decision that he would not violate the will of God for any reason. That decision was laid like concrete in his mind. If it meant prison, torture, or even death, Daniel would not bow his knee and compromise what he knew to be right.
Daniel’s example of steadfastness rings true for Christians living in the 21st century. The Devil is working hard in our increasingly materialistic and humanistic culture to try and persuade us to “do as the Romans.” So, Christians are faced with a very important decision. Will we compromise our faith and live as the world lives or will we determine to remain steadfast (1 Cor. 15:58)? When in Rome, do as Daniel. Make the decision to be faithful.