Between Grace and Hate
With my bible study group, I have been looking at the book of Esther. The only book in the bible that doesn’t mention God, yet it seems that God is present nonetheless. Much like in our lives, we cannot see or touch God in a physical sense, yet God is very much present and with us as we live our lives. God is as present as we choose to live with God in glorifying ways. As we respond to God, God grasps us. As God grasps us, we begin to know and experience God.
A key element of Christianity is God’s grace. This is one of the differences between Christianity and other religious faiths. Christianity says that it is by God’s action and God’s action alone that we are saved. Grace is unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their redemption and transformation; it is a virtue from God. God’s grace has been described as free, unconditional, limitless, and for all. My favorite theologian Robert Farrar Capon who describes it best, he said, “This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free.”
In Esther 5, we see a strong example of Esther’s “grace.” Another definition of grace is a special favor, a privilege. Rudyard Kipling said of this kind of grace, “each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage.” Grace can also be seen as a disposition to or an act of kindness or courtesy. Esther seems to be exemplary of this kind of grace, especially in this chapter. She wants something and she uses her grace to entice the king into asking what it is she wants.
The main difference between God’s grace and Esther’s grace is God does not need anyone. He can do what he wants on his own, while we need God. God has gifted us with life and gifts us with salvation. He doesn’t have to show kindness, though he does. God needs not worry about social conventions. Esther was contingent on God. She waited on the Lord. She needed strength from the Lord to do what she was to do. She needed God.
Much like Esther, we need God. On our own, we cannot get it done, but with God, all things are possible. That leaves nothing out. Yet, that does not mean that as long as we believe in God that we will get all we want when we want it. No. All things possible means that we can and will live the life we ought and we will experience all life has to offer. It doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer. We will. Yet, we will know that God will see us through it.
In today’s passage we see how for Haman, “the appetite of hate is never satisfied.” I agree with this statement. It plays out in life all the time. Hate is dangerous, corrosive. A fuel that only builds and consumes without end. With hate, your only option is to dig your own grave, which in a way is what Haman is doing by pursuing the course of action that he has set upon. I have not learned how to control my anger, though I do try to prevent my anger or annoyance from building to all out hate. I try to remind myself that no one is perfect and each of us do what we can with what we have that we are human and are doing our best. I am no stranger to hate though and sometimes I have been able to overcome this horrid attitude.
Japanese Novelist, Haruki Murakami, said, “Hatred is like a long, dark shadow. Not even the person it falls upon knows where it comes from, in most cases. It is like a two-edged sword. When you cut the other person, you cut yourself. The more violently you hack at the other person, the more violently you hack at yourself. It can often be fatal. It is not easy to dispose of. Hatred is the most difficult think in the world to shake off.”
It is easy to get caught up in gripe sessions, when advice that is given ends up just fueling another’s fire. Work is the place where I most often am caught up in gripe sessions. Someone will complain about something and at first, I will try to find something good to say. If it goes on for too long, I will join in and say, something that I only half-believe, but will add fuel to the gripe fire.
My pastors offer good advice and both of them, maybe even when not intending have helped me become more and more of the person I ought to be and the me I want to be. The difference between a good advice giver and a poor one is the good one meets you where you are and guides you to finding an answer for yourself. The bad one will just try to do what they think you should do even if it is not the best thing to do.
This chapter in our story taught four things us. First, when preparing for something wait on the Lord. Second, when dealing with a difficult person trust the Lord. Third, when dealing with an unpleasant situation ask for the patience to deal with it. Fourth, when dealing with an adversary ask for strength to face him or her.