‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.’ ‘If it pleases the king,’ replied Esther, ‘let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.’
Paul before Agrippa, the apostles before the Sanhedrin – being a disciple of Jesus Christ, then and now, has led many into confrontation with power and authority. Early trade unionists who confronted injustice and exploitation, the desperately brave people who resisted Hitler, those who opposed Apartheid – history has plenty of examples of people whose commitment led to confrontation. Many of them were driven by their Christian faith to stand up before overwhelming power.
In the book of Esther, the threat of genocide forced Esther to confront the king, whether or not she would succeed in saving her people. Risking her life, she stood before him, and he said: ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.’
Esther refrained from shouting or tears. She knew she still had some way to go – so she invited the king to a meal. She moved carefully, one step at a time.
How do we deal with the need to confront? For most of us, this will not entail the kind of danger which Esther faced, or which, in some countries, our fellow Christians are still facing. But, in our everyday lives, how do we react when a colleague is bullied or grossly discriminated against, or when someone in our family is unjustly treated? Do we keep our heads down, afraid and unprepared? When a refugee is dehumanised by our bureaucracy, or when the lives of the world’s poor are undermined by our selfish policies, do we do anything at all?
In our personal dilemmas, sitting down to a meal together, or going for a drink, is often a good first move. The combination of courage and wisdom, of directness and gentleness, will often achieve what blustering and accusation cannot. And in the face of wider injustice and exploitation, Christians have an obligation, like Esther, to put their own comfort on the line for the sake of others in need. Whatever the scale of the issue, followers of Jesus cannot, with integrity, pass by on the other side.