If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

But he refused to eat the king’s food.

We’re not sure why Daniel drew his line at the table (Daniel 1:8). Perhaps the meat was off limits or not prepared in a kosher way. But that doesn’t explain why Daniel objected to the king’s wine. Perhaps the meat had been offered to idols or symbolically made Daniel dependent on the king. But this would also be true of the vegetables, which he devoured (Daniel 1:12).

Whatever the reason, Daniel believed that eating the king’s meat and drinking the king’s wine would defile him. He was involuntarily living in enemy territory, but he didn’t forget who he was. Faithful Jews were known by their Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, and special diet. Keeping Sabbath wasn’t in Daniel’s control. He had to work whenever he was summoned. Circumcision wasn’t visible to anyone but him. So that left the edibles. Daniel vowed to retain his identity, so he asked permission to eat something else.

We live in a different type of exile, surrounded by “worldly desires that wage war against [our] very souls” (1 Peter 2:11). So where do we find our identity? Not in a special diet, but in Jesus Himself. We remember that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus provides our identity and the perfect example for us to follow.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 21:28-46