One of the hardest things for any child to become comfortable with is being different than their peers. Yet as Christian, they will make many choices that are different than those made by most of their peers in order to obey God. Some kids fold under the pressure and disobey God – more to fit in with everyone else than because they actually want to participate in the sin.
This activity can be a fun way to talk about strategies to avoid following the crowd when they know it means doing something God wouldn’t want them to do.
Read from Daniel chapter 1 the story introducing Daniel and his friends. Point out that Daniel and his friends were of royal blood. They had been brought to Babylon the Bible says, because they were also good looking and intelligent. They were already well educated because of their royal birth. The Babylonians wanted them to have three more years of education in their languages, customs, etc.
As part of the training they were to receive, they were to be fed the same way as the royals of Babylon were fed. This diet had several problems, that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention, but we can assume from what we know of both diets.
First the Babylonians ate some foods God had forbidden the Jews to eat or weren’t prepared the way God told them to prepare their food. There was also a very good chance the food and drinks they were given had been sacrificed to idols before they were given to the captives. Daniel and his friends probably thought it was at the very least disrespectful to God to eat food sacrificed to false gods. Finally, the royal Babylonian diet was very heavy in meats, fats and oils. Those foods aren’t healthy to eat in the amounts the royal Babylonians evidently ate them. (Archaeologists have found ancient Babylonian recipes. Almost all of them were for meat dishes where the meat was also soaked in quite a bit of oil.)
Daniel and his friends made a special request. They wanted to eat a vegetarian diet and drink water. They suggested a test to prove this diet would make them healthier than the original diet they had been offered. While the Bible does not require us to eat a vegetarian diet, studies have shown it is a very healthy way to eat. God allows us to eat meat and in small portions, meat can provide things our bodies need like iron and protein.
Ask your kids what the other young men in captivity might have said or done when Daniel and his friends rejected the royal diet they were offered. What sort of peer pressure, do they think Daniel and his friends might have had to endure – not just from other captives, but from the Babylonians as well? Why do they think Daniel and his friends were able to stay focused on what they thought God wanted them to do in spite of what others said or did to them?
We don’t know for sure what they did to remain strong, but you and your kids might want to look at the stories of Daniel and the Lions’ Den and Shadrach and Friends and the Fiery Furnace that happen later in Daniel. It seems they had a pattern of doing what God wanted even when the pressure to disobey God might mean their death.
Ask your kids to brainstorm ways they can stand up to peer pressure when others are trying to get them to do things they know would mean disobeying God. You may even want to act out a few scenarios to help them practice some strategies. Peer pressure is never fun, but giving your kids some tools to stand up to it, can make the experience a little easier for them.