Do you trust God to take care of the outcomes or do you pretend as if you control such things? Bunker dwellers try to control. Those in no man’s land trust and obey.
by Brian Jennings, author of Dancing in No Man’s Land: Moving with Peace and Truth in a Hostile World
One of my favorite characters from the Old Testament is Daniel. He found himself in a nearly impossible situation, one in which he’d have to compromise either truth or peace.
Daniel a captive and exile under the rule of the ancient Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Words like ruthless, spoiled, and volatile describe Nebuchadnezzar well. Brilliant describes him too. His military and architectural achievements brought him fame, but his foolishness was never far away.
One night Nebuchadnezzar had a deeply disturbing dream. He was so rattled that he summoned all of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers—which truly was a great honor. It’s not every day the most powerful man in the world calls you to solve his problems.
Their good feelings would soon turn into a nightmare.
Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.” (Daniel 2:5)
Daniel had been enslaved by King Nebuchadnezzar. He’d survived the siege and collapse of Judah and the Israelite trail of tears, being marched away from their homeland. He’d lost his country, home, belongings, friends, and family, and then he was forced to serve the wicked king who’d caused his harm. Insult to injury.
Daniel had served Nebuchadnezzar well, but the inability of the other wise men to tell Nebuchadnezzar what he’d dreamed placed a kill order on him. And just when it looked like Daniel had nowhere to turn, he found no man’s land.
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. (Daniel 2:14)
Daniel opted for a revolutionary peace plan. He spoke with wisdom and tact. His words were measured and careful. As a result, many innocent people lived. His words saved families, preserved future generations, and allowed him to have a continued voice in the conversation. By speaking with wisdom and tact, Daniel stayed in step with God’s will for his life. He overcame the trappings of bunker living. His wise and tactful response illuminated a trail scarcely traveled.
The Four Ways of Wisdom and Tact
Daniel’s counterintuitive response to Nebuchadnezzar reveals why it’s critical to speak with wisdom and tact. Without tact, wisdom cannot be heard. Without wisdom, tact only makes foolishness more palatable. But when wisdom and tact are paired, you can apply knowledge that welcomes people to hear it, and you can dance in no man’s land, even when your life is on the line. Especially when your life is on the line.
As Daniel’s story unfolds, we learn four profound yet doable principles of wisdom and tact. Daniel . . .
1. Asked questions
2. Showed restraint
Three times in the first two chapters, Daniel responds to a crisis with a question. Daniel asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. (Daniel 2:15-16)
The blunder of casting judgment before asking questions has crept into my life. I’ve too often blurted correction before asking a thoughtful question to my wife, my children, or the kids in the baseball dugout. I’ve been guilty of digging into a fight, as opposed to digging into the matter in a search for truth.
The next time a crisis erupts in your house or in the headlines, test yourself. Are you digging in for a fight? Are you digging for truth and suspending judgment? What are those around you doing? Are you offering death or life . . . digging graves or wells?
Daniel’s questions reflect a calmness rarely seen in times of crisis. Time was running out, yet he did not act or speak rashly. He didn’t lash out or yield control to an emotional flare-up. Instead, he showed self-control.
Uncontrolled, unfiltered words and actions trigger family feuds and global crises. God lovingly gave us emotions, but he also gave us the ability to manage our words and actions.
“Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends . . .. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven.” (Daniel 2:17-18) Daniel’s unrelenting prayer life guarded his heart against any sort of bunker mentality. The Lord helped him discern what to say and how to say it. Daniel walked with God, and God walked with Daniel.
Daniel knew God held no obligation to listen, but God still turned his ear toward him. God listened because God is good. But the text also says God listened because: “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:12) When we seek the Lord in humility, the Lord hears and responds.
The temptation to attempt to control the outcomes of situations can chain us like slaves. When we’re locked in on outcomes, obedience disappears from our mind. But obedience is wisdom. Daniel chose obedience, focusing on following God in the face of death rather than trying to scheme against Babylon, the evil empire.
Do you trust God to take care of the outcomes or do you pretend as if you control such things? Bunker dwellers try to control. Those in no man’s land trust and obey. What is keeping you from obedience?
The Rest of the Story
After Daniel responded with wisdom and tact to Arioch, Nebuchadnezzar’s henchman, God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. “Only God could reveal your dream,” Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar. “You dreamt of a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance and consisting of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. But it won’t stand forever. It will be crushed, bit by bit. The rock that topples it will eventually become a mountain and fill the whole earth.” (My paraphrase; see Daniel 2:24-49)
King Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes must’ve widened. Daniel had vividly narrated the king’s dream. “God has given you dominion and power and glory,” Daniel revealed to him. “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third and fourth kingdom will rise and fall. But finally, God will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.” (My paraphrase; see Daniel 2:24-49)
Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel, confessing that his God is the God of gods. Instead of executing Daniel and his friends, he promoted them. Nebuchadnezzar, sadly, returned to foolishness. But Daniel remained faithful.
Daniel never dove into a bunker. Ever. He never viewed Nebuchadnezzar as the enemy. Soak that in: Daniel did not view the man wanting to kill him as an enemy. And yet, he also never violated his faith. He knew he waged war not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers. In the midst of an oppressive regime, Daniel demonstrated Jesus’ statement, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Next time that you are in a hot spot, remember Daniel. He honored God, persuaded a king, and saved the day by speaking with wisdom and tact.
Dancing in No Man’s Land: Moving with Peace and Truth in a Hostile World by Brian Jennings
Are you tired of the conflict all around you?
It happens over and over again. A political argument with a friend, a fight about racial issues on the internet, a disagreement with a coworker—at the first sign of conflict, we flee to a bunker with people who think like us and attack everyone else. We feel safe there, but it’s killing us: killing families, friendships, civility, and discourse.
Our fractured world desperately needs a different way: people who will speak gently, value truth, and think clearly. Dancing in No Man’s Land is a rallying cry, a life-giving and practical journey into the way of Jesus that will revolutionize how you view conflict. You can choose to speak both truth and peace in the midst of war. You can step out of our bunkers and into no-man’s land, where only brave souls tread. It may look like you’re dodging cultural landmines. But you might just be learning how to dance.