Friday, October 13, 2017

Move Your But

The difference between the Jewish thread that runs through Esther's story and the Christian cover that lays over most of ours is the difference in the emphasis that we place on God's story. A life of faith that declares God without naming Him requires this one important thing:

We've got to move our 'but.'

Today's Christianity starts with the self. Any time we are introduced the Word of God, we are told that the best way to see it is through the lens of our selves - our lives, our experiences, our truths. This has resulted in a Christianity that almost always says, "I..., but God...." I am a sinner, but God will forgive me. I am broken, but God makes me whole. I lie, but God is truth. I struggle, but God is victory. You name it, God is the response.

It flows quite naturally off our tongues. It seems only right, doesn't it? But thinking this way about God has completely gotten us off the hook of having to even try to live holy lives. Look at the structure of it - God spends His entire existence cleaning up the messes that we've made. Where is there any space at all for Him to require anything of us?

There's not. And we've convinced ourselves that this is exactly how it's supposed to be. We are "supposed" to be sinners, broken, liars, hypocrites, strugglers, etc. That's our role. We tell ourselves it's beautiful because when we are these things, God gets to be who He really is. So we go about our lives not even trying - what's there to try for? God doesn't require anything of us.

Then, we're shocked when others look at our lives and see sinners, liars, hypocrites, and strugglers. I mean, gosh, didn't they read our bumper stickers?

Esther's story could not be more different from ours in this regard. Esther's story starts with God; she (and Mordecai, depending on what section of the story you're reading) are the but.

Esther starts with the idea that God is good, and she works out from there. She starts with the idea that God provides for widows and orphans, but she has to accept her kinsman-redeemer. She does; the Scriptures tell us that Esther always did everything Mordecai told her to do.

Esther starts with the idea that God protects His people, but she knows that this requires her to speak. She's been put in this position for just such a time as this, and God requires her here to use her voice. She does; she petitions the king on behalf of her people.

Mordecai starts with the idea that God is a jealous God, but that requires him to serve God exclusively. He does; he refuses to bow down to other gods.

At every turn Esther's story starts with God and asks what that requires of her; the Jewish thread is woven well through.

But our stories start with us and ask what that requires of God; it's a cheap Christian cover. And it's why our witness, as it is, doesn't work unless we actually speak God's name - we have to explain it to others so that they'll understand. Otherwise, all they see are sinners and hypocrites.

If we want our witness to be powerful, we have to go back to the Esther method. We've got to start with God and ask what that requires of us. We've got to move our 'but's.  

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