Esther Chapter 8
Chapter 8 may allows us to talk about the role of human government. One could argue that one lesson that can be learned from the book of Esther is that there is no certainty in human governments and that our confidence should rest in God (and Christ) alone. I think that too many in the U.S. A. put too much hope or faith in the government.
The conservative belief that America is the hope of the world, that America is the answer of all that ails the world. This false belief belongs side by side with the false notion that America is a Christian nation and that the American flag should be on display in our churches. It seems for some conservatives that the American flag has replaced the cross as the symbol of the religion about the homeless Jewish mystic. Jesus went to the cross not for any nation (certainly not the American nation) but for all to restore, renew, and reconcile all of creation to God. God loves people not nations. God loves personally.
Let’s get some things straight.
America is a nation like any other, built by large groups that came together for the common good. It is not specifically a Christian nation. It is made of many people from many cultures and religions and no religion. God did not decree this nation even though one religious group believes that the garden spoke of in Genesis 1-3 was in America (they are wrong). America is a nation of the sword. America does offer religious freedom and we should be glad for that and all the other freedoms we get.
As a Christian and someone who wants to take my faith seriously, I must point this out. Feel free to disagree with me or add anything to it. However, it is my faith that says America is not the hope of the world. Jesus is the hope of the world.
Psalm 39 asks but now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you and Matthew 12 answers by quoting Isaiah saying that in his name the nations will put their hope. They repeatedly tell us to put our hope in God alone and not conform to the world’s ways. We are not to put our hope in anything but God. Saying that America is the hope of the world is denying that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. It is to say that this world and not God, the kingdom of the sword and not the Kingdom of God is our priority.
Chapter 8 could be seen as almost a reversal of the opening chapters of Esther. Haman’s edict replaced with Mordecai’s. Persecution replaced by privileged position. A desire to destroy a nation replaced with a nation growing in numbers. One could look at this as a battle of currents—Haman’s evil and Esther’s good. Many today would argue that Christianity is divisive, narrow, exclusionary, or mean spirited.
Does this mean the “church” today is (like Haman) a current of evil in the world?
The church has gotten it wrong as much. The church is as wonderful as it is awful. The church is as grace filled as it is legalistic.
I have mentioned before how Church is not the engine of our salvation. That Jesus alone is responsible for our faith, salvation, and sanctification. While church cannot save us, it is still very important. I go to church every Sunday. I am glad for the church I belong to and for the leaders. Both of the pastors are men of God deeply committed to the way of Jesus. Everyone I have interacted with at church are also committed to the way of Our Lord. I may disagree with some on some issues, but I commend their willingness to follow where Jesus leads and to friends with me.
Yes, Church is good and important, but it won’t save us and it shouldn’t be worshiped. There is only one who is worthy of our worship. That is Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
I like the bold and blunt quote attributed to Augustine: The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.
Tony Campolo explains this quote by saying the first part about how the church strays from the way of the church and often misleads people. The church has done many wrong things in its history. History is riddled with how the church has done things opposite of how Jesus wants things done that have harmed many who want to follow Him. Yet, if it weren’t for the church, we would have the bible and many wonderful teachings. We wouldn’t have many good and wonderful things. She’s my mother. The church for all its whoring has been blessing, also.
We are imperfect and so our churches will be imperfect. If we were to find a perfect church, we should not join it, because we would just wreck it. All of us have stumbled, stepped on toes, and fallen short of the grace of God. None of us is without blemish. We will fall short and that is why we need Jesus. It is in those moments when we fall short, when we stumble, when we step on toes and stray from the right path that we discover how much we really do need Jesus.
Yes, Church is good and important, but it won’t save us. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the one who leads and when we follow even though we stumble, we will stay on the right path. It is when we choose to go it alone that we need to come back to our shepherd.
The adjectives divisive, narrow, exclusionary, or mean spirited are hard to swallow. Let’s look at them. To follow Jesus means to be divisive at times. There will be times when we must say no that is not how we live or what life is meant to be like. Narrow too can be good. We need to be narrow in order to stand up for the good, true, and beautiful against the myriad ways this world has to twist love, beauty, joy, and grace. Exclusion is not good. I cannot come to any way where this would ever be something that should be condoned. God does not exclude, while we were still sinners, he loved us. Mean spirited too is wrong. Christians should always include, love, and serve everyone.
This ends my eighth reflection on Esther. One more reflection and my study of this book will be done. I hope in the future to study this book deeper and offer further notes on it.
Grace and Peace