Perfect Love in a Time of Challenge

Duluth Minnesota Rose Garden, September 2020

As a child, one of my favorite Bible stories was that of Esther. Esther is a beautiful young woman living in Persia, in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. She is a Jewish woman who becomes queen. Esther had been encouraged to try out for the role by her uncle and adopted father Mordecai. She was chosen by the king because of her beauty and charm.

All would have been well for Esther and Mordecai had it not been for an Aid to King Ahasuerus  by the name of Haman, who hates Jewish people. Esther suddenly finds herself in the midst of a crisis that will test her deepest beliefs and values, her integrity, her faith and her love for her people. Because, in spite of being a queen, she has little power.

Haman has convinced the king that Jewish people were his enemies. They must be destroyed. One might add that King Ahasuerus seems pretty oblivious to what is happening in his kingdom. By the time Esther heard about the plot, a message had already been sent to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill and plunder the Jewish people on a specific date. Not even children were to be spared.

Esther’s Uncle Mordecai sends word to her asking her to go to the King, to speak to him on behalf of her people. It would seem like a simple request. But there is a rule in the kingdom that if anyone, even the queen, dares to approach the king without being sent for, that person will be executed. Only if the king extends his golden scepter will that person’s life be spared.

A long time had passed since the king asked for her. Feeling helpless, Esther sends a message to her uncle, telling him why she can’t act. Esther is afraid. When we’re afraid it is hard to look beyond our fear and consider what God wants us, needs us to do. It’s hard to figure out where we belong. Even as perfect love casts out all fear, so perfect fear makes it difficult to love.

When we’re afraid we shut ourselves off from other people – their problems and there needs. Fear can make us less generous, less kind. It causes us to protect ourselves without concern for anyone else. Fear makes us tremble and hide. Fear makes Esther refuse to help her people. Fear makes us refuse to get involved.

Mordecai responds by sending another message to Esther in her fear “If you remain silent at such a time as this, relief and deliverance for the Jews will appear from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. . . Who knows whether it is not for such a time as this that you have come to royal estate.” Esther 4:13-14

Esther is faced with a decision. Will she deny her heritage and her God, relying on her crown to protect her? Or will she risk her life for her people and appeal to the king?

Perhaps it is for such a time as this that you and I have been born into our world. For such a time as this that we have been given knowledge, wisdom, emotional and spiritual resources to resist evil. For such a time as this we are called to do justice and love all of God’s people. For such a time as this to stand up for those most in need of being defended. Whatever our age, we were born into this world, at this time with all of it problems and possibilities to be part of God’s plan for the world.

Esther had no weapons to take when she went to the king. There were no protectors there. Nothing but the prayers of Mordecai and prayers of her people she had asked for. It seems unfair that the wellbeing of a whole people was placed on this one young and vulnerable woman. She doesn’t know how he will respond. She hopes and prays that he will extend that golden scepter. Esther decides to go to the King at the risk of her life saying, “If I perish, I perish.”

Was it the prayers of God’s people that caused the heart of the king to open when he saw Esther? He reached out to her. Because of her courage, the terrible plot against her people was discovered for what it was. The Jewish people were saved from genocide.

We live in a time of immense challenges. Our climate is in peril. Fascism rises up around the globe. A pandemic circles the earth. Racial justice cries out for healing. We were put in this world at this time and this era for a purpose. In this challenging time, God needs each of us to stand for justice and compassion. For such a time as this, we were born into this world.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18