Formations 07.07.2024: Saying No

Daniel 1:1, 3-8, 11-17

I grew up in a wonderful youth group with loving leaders and with friends who were also my schoolmates. We felt encouraged to ask questions, seek new ideas, and wonder about our faith. But we also went to summer youth camps filled with emotional experiences that made us think we didn’t measure up and needed to recommit our lives to Jesus, even if we had already taken the expected steps to become Christians.

Much of the teaching at those youth camps was about saying no. Say no to smoking and drinking. To premarital sex. To expressions of queerness. To women leading a household or a church. To cursing. To watching R-rated films (and even some PG-13 ones). To religions outside the Christian faith and to beliefs within some Christian denominations that didn’t align with what we “knew” to be true.

While some of these actions and behaviors can indeed bring devastation and heartache, as I grew older I realized there were things we were never told to say no to…and we should have been. Say no to misogyny, bigotry, prejudice, exclusion, and injustice. To inequality, racism, ageism, and homophobia.

Say no to people who misuse their power. That’s what Daniel and his friends did. Young, strong, healthy, and intelligent, they were taken from their homeland into exile in Babylon. Already far from everything familiar, they were expected to serve a king in ways that went against their culture and beliefs. They were not safe to be themselves. They were prisoners against their will, and no amount of delicious food and fancy accommodations convinced them otherwise.

What could they do in this dangerous situation? How could they hold true to their values in a foreign land where one wrong move could get them killed? Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah chose a quiet protest against the king’s rich food. An agreeable guard allowed them to maintain their healthy diets from Judah, and after ten days “they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations” (v. 15); basically, their food nurtured and strengthened them.

This quiet act of rebellion seems small, but it led to greater acts of God’s power (v. 17; see Dan 2–6). Their way of saying no brought them closer to God and protected them.


• Why do you think some Christian groups focus on particular vices or behaviors more than others?
• How can that be helpful? How might it be harmful?
• Can you imagine the courage Daniel and his friends needed to refuse the king’s food?
• How is it sometimes better to “start small” and with humility than to protest loudly with anger?
• How is Jesus an example of starting small, being humble, and still slowly working against systems of oppression and injustice?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!


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