Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Power in Precedent

Guess what I found in the Word today? A precedent I had never seen before. 

It's a story I have read a dozen times, but that jumped out at me in a totally relevant way this morning.

Esther 4:1-8

In case you're familiar with the story, or in case you're not, here's the recap in my own words:

Esther was a Jewish exile in Persia, raised by her uncle, Mordecai. She was very beautiful, and eventually caught the eye of the guys looking for a new queen for the king. 

Haman was an official of the king's who had a very nasty death wish for Mordecai, and by extension, all Jews.

He got the king (who didn't know his wife was Jewish) to sign an edict that all the Jews in Persia could be put to death.

Mordecai, and the entire Jewish community, tore their clothes, put on sack cloth, heaped ashes on their heads, and mourned publicly over the edict. Weeping. Wailing. In utter despair. 

Mordecai went so far as to sit in the dirt in front of the king's gate, dressed in his 'death clothes,' so to speak, loudly lamenting the injustice that was widely publicized and totally acceptable to the majority of the people in the city.

Queen Esther heard about it, and sent him clothes to put on. Basically "dude, calm down, you're making me uncomfortable." Mordecai refused the clothes. Basically "I cannot be calm. My life is at stake here." 

So, finally realizing this was a really big deal, she sent messengers to ask him "WHY are you acting this way? What has happened?"

Mordecai responded by sending her a copy of the edict, and asking her servant to "explain to her what is happening and what it means." SHE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW up to this point. She was totally insulated within the confines of her own life until someone close to her threw back his head and wailed to be heard.

Her uncle begged her to go to the king and ask him to undo what had been done, to change things.

But "its agains the law to go to the king without being called...I will most likely be killed..." she responded.

"God's deliverance will come one way or another...but who knows? Maybe you were made queen for JUST SUCH A TIME as this..." came the grief stricken reply.

"Alright...I'll fast and pray for three days, and then I'll go to the king," the queen decided. "And if I die...I die."

Y'all. Are you kidding me? Do you see the parallel to the current state of our country? I swear, it was jumping off the page, dancing in living colors before my eyes today.

1. Unwarranted targeting of a group of people with a different ethnicity than those in power.
2. A deep, echoing outcry against the injustice that had been accepted without a second thought.
3. People all around who didn't even KNOW what had been happening, or what would happen if they stayed silent. 
4. Well-meaning, well-motived, unaware people saying: "Calm down, you're overreacting."
6. (and here is where all us white people need to start hearing the precedent of the WORD OF GOD) "Okay, Mordecai, I'm listening. Tell me why you're weeping. Help me understand. What can I do?"
7. Shocked revelation...and also hesitation. "I can't do anything about that. If I do, my own life (peace, status-quo, pre-determined ways of responding, previously held views, oblivious comfort, innocent unawareness) will be in danger."
8. Resolve, and also an invitation to WAKE UP: "God will fight for us. He's on the side of the oppressed. He's just. You don't HAVE to do anything. But maybe He put you in the place you are in (entrusted you with those resources, made you an ethnicity that commands attention, gave you the platform He did) for this exact moment in time."
9. "I will fast and pray" (Seriously...can you imagine if she had just knee-jerk responded without fasting and prayer? I can. It looks a lot like facebook conversations I keep seeing. Firing back and forth, trying to make the other side see things your way, defending yourself, not really sitting, for a long time, with the Spirit of God, allowing Him to speak to and prepare and encourage and calm you down before you say or do something that isn't in keeping with the One who is Peace and Love and Truth. Pull yourselves together, people. All of us on all sides should stop talking and fall to our knees and empty ourselves in order to hear from God) "and then I will go to the King."
10. She did exactly what she said she would do. She sought the Lord. And she acted. (once we have aligned our hearts to His, and tapped into His will, His strength, His direction for us to individually take...we do something to affect change.)

I do not know how this could be more clear. Seriously.

Even if you didn't know what was going on before you do. Don't be defensive about the fact that you didn't know. Don't make excuses. Don't try to give your grieving friends 'new clothes.' Don't try to redirect the conversation, or placate, or gloss over, or make light of, or blame shift. Don't say a word at all until you spend a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Even though she was innocent of wrongdoing, Esther risked her life to set something right. She had no personal responsibility in the wrong that had been done, but she stuck her neck out, literally, in the hopes of righting it. 

So what if you aren't racist? So what if you have lots of black friends? So what if you believe most cops are the good guys and they shouldn't all be treated like bad apples? So what if you think rioting is wrong? So what if you disagree with wrong policies and rhetoric of those in power? 

Good for you. That isn't the point.

The point is, someone is grieving. And we can try to make it go away as quickly and quietly as possible, so as not to upset our comfortable oblivion. We can argue, defend, explain our position, use words when none are asked for...

Or we can listen to those who are grieving. Without feeling like we are condoning wrong, we can do what is right. And then take what we now see more clearly to the Lord, and sit in silence with Him, asking Him to give us the courage to do what He might be asking us to do.

And before we cut the story short with the knowledge that Esther did in fact do something, let's take a second to glance at what she did, and what she didn't do.

She DID go in before the king, and he did not have her immediately killed. And as she stood there before him, with the attention of everyone steadfastly fixed on what she was going to say, something that was so important to her that she faced death to say it...she chose her words carefully, with respect, kindness, and a desire to do this thing well.

She invited her husband to a meal, where she promised to talk more. And then she went and threw a grand banquet for him, and for her worst enemy, the man who had all but sealed her fate: Haman. And the privacy of that banquet meal, she pleaded for her life and the lives of her people.

11. She invited an opportunity for personal, intimate dialogue.
12. She used her resources to assist in the comfort of those involved.
13. She spoke plainly and clearly and bravely, but...

What did she NOT do?

She didn't shout and rant. She didn't throw things. She didn't accuse. She came in humility, and she used her resources and personal relationships in order to affect change. Privately, not publicly.

This then is our mandate. We better get up and do it. The way it has been modeled for us in Scripture.

That's the precedent in the Word of God. 

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