Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part IV

A guest post by Ben Dudley
If you haven’t read Part IPart II or Part III yet, check those out first.

The OT: Part II – Esther 4:12-17
The story of Esther and Mordecai is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It reads like a modern day movie script full of love, loss, vengeance, betrayal, kings and queens, and war. This story is unique in how Esther finds herself in a position to appeal to King Xerxes. The King, after dethroning his wife, makes Esther queen. Her cousin Mordecai who had forbidden her to reveal her nationality for fear that she would not be accepted into the kingdom raised Esther, a Jew. A degree has been issued for all Jews to be killed. Upon finding out that all Jews are to be killed, Mordecai asks Esther to go appeal to King Xerxes on behalf of the Jews.

When looking at the passage in chapter 4:12-17, Mordecai reveals God’s mission to Israel. Esther is scared to reveal that she is a Jew for fear of death. Mordecai tells her that if she remains silent she will be found out and will be killed. He goes on to say, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.” (4:14) Mordecai knew that God would deliver the Jews because God is faithful. He argues that Esther has been placed into this position for a reason, and that reason is to be a voice for God’s chosen people. “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)

Esther’s position of influence is quite unique and may at first seem difficult for us to try and relate. Very few people are married into a position of influence; however, even for Esther to approach the King was illegal and punishment was death. This raises an important question for us, are we willing to break the law in order to bring about social change? Many historic movements have been based upon the idea of social disobedience. The civil rights movement practiced nonviolent civil disobedience to end discrimination in America. Some young men were drafted to serve in the military, chose to go to jail because they believed it was in direct conflict with the teachings of scripture to fight in a war. “The conscientious objector who refuses to do what a government demands, but still remains under the sovereignty of that government and accepts the penalties which it imposes, or the Christian who refuses to worship Caesar but still permits Caesar to put him or her to death, is being subordinate even though not obeying.” (Yoder 1994: 209)

Esther was willing to suffer death in order to do what she believed was the correct thing to do. It may seem to be a contradiction for me to argue that it is important for us to participate in government while also saying that we should go against the government. To clarify, appealing to the government does not mean going along with everything that is instructed. Appealing to the government may mean being willing to lie down in front of the presidential motorcade to delay the signing of a bill.

The Old Testament is rich with stories of kings and governments who are both in harmony and in dissonance with God. God’s mission to use Israel as a light to other nations is clear and by appealing to these nations God’s glory is made known. In Part V we will start with a passage from the New Testament.

Ben Dudley was born and raised in Texas, though he has always felt like he belonged on the West Coast. He and his wife now reside in Portland, Oregon. Ben is a graduate of Baylor University in 1999 with a Church Recreation and Leisure Services Degree, and is currently two years into a Master of Arts in Global Leadership Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in two different churches prior to moving to Portland where he and his wife, along with a core team of people are planting a church. Ben also works with CrossTraining-US where he serves as a chaplain to professional soccer players in Portland. He considers himself a very lucky man to be married to his beautiful wife Jamie, who is his best friend and partner in ministry. They both love to travel, eat good food and spend time with friends and family.

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