Leading in the Midst of Babylon: Part I

By Yemi Adewuyi '20

Yemi Adewuyi is a graduate of the Harvard Law School class of 2020. He is also a 2019-2020 Fellow for the Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies.

Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time, they were to stand before the king.

-Daniel 1: 3-5 (ESV)

Growing up, I was quite inspired by the biblical account of Daniel. Even while in the lions’ den, he displayed an unwavering commitment to his God because he knew Him to be a deliverer. And though Daniel is most famously cited for his bravery in the midst of turmoil, I am also challenged by the exemplary way that he lived out his faith while in a position of relative privilege.

Daniel grew up in Judah during a trying time in its history. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, occupied the territory of Judah and took nearly everyone into exile. His chief officer, Ashpenaz, identified the most talented young men that they had captured and groomed them to serve the king. These men had to undergo a three-year program that would equip them with the skills necessary for holding positions of responsibility and power in Babylon.

During these three years of formal tutoring, Daniel would have received a specialized “wisdom instruction” that consisted of studies in public affairs, political science, military history, international relations, and much more. In his book, Prophets and Wisdom Men, Professor William McKane suggests that the chief function of the wisdom instruction was to help future leaders develop the principles and intellectual attitudes of a statesman. 

As a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, I’ve found myself re-reading the story of Daniel quite often, reflecting on the lessons that it might hold for Christian lawyers. During our own “three years of education,” we learn about a variety of legal topics, ranging from public international law to critical legal theory. We engage in classroom discussions and Socratic seminars that unmask our own intellectual biases and push us to consider the political ramifications of the laws that we defend. We study the practical complexities and contradictions of a justice system that is, in a broader sense, foreign to us. 

As followers of Christ, we are primarily citizens of a heavenly kingdom founded on perfect justice and righteousness. But while we are sojourners here, I believe that Christian lawyers owe it to society to bring those kingdom principles to earth. We ought to think of law school as a sort of “wisdom education” in its own right—a time to stretch ourselves intellectually and spiritually. It is a time to think more critically about the historical and sociopolitical forces that have birthed our present legal system. 

We ought to think of law school as a sort of “wisdom education” in its own right—a time to stretch ourselves intellectually and spiritually.

As Christian lawyers, we will always find ourselves traversing proverbial Babylon—that is, the flawed systems and power structures that mankind has constructed out of his own limited understanding. But like Daniel, we must learn what it means to operate in positions of privilege while maintaining an unflinching resolve to abide by God’s standard of truth and justice. To be a lawyer is an immense privilege, and it also bears an immense responsibility. May we fulfill that duty with wisdom and compassion.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for the opportunity to be students of the law. We pray that we would never take our education for granted. Like Paul the Apostle, we pray that you would impart a spirit of wisdom and revelation to us, so that even our studies would help us understand Your character better. May we lead from a place of humility, servanthood, and honor. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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