Who doesn’t love the story of Esther, the young Jewish girl who put her life on the line in order to save thousands of other Jewish lives? Who isn’t inspired by people like Corrie ten Boom who used their positions of social privilege during World War II to act in the spirit of Esther to save the lives of Jewish people?
This Wednesday evening is Purim, the holiday celebrating God’s deliverance of the Jewish people via the courage of one woman who used her voice and privilege on behalf of those facing mass extermination. Where are the Esthers of today?
I see some Esthers raising their voices on behalf of those trapped by human trafficking and at work in prayer and advocacy on behalf of those who are being persecuted for their Christian faith. I grew up in the faith hearing about the courage of people like this who’d been imprisoned for their faith behind the Iron Curtain and China. Each new generation breeds some hell-bent (in the dictionary sense of the phrase) on discovering new ways to torture, imprison, and dehumanize those who aren’t like them. The Church in the comfy, sleepy West is becoming more aware with each new horrific headline and YouTube video that the ascent and spread of Islamic fundamentalism means Christians (and other people groups, including less-radical Muslims) are an endangered species across the Middle East and in some parts of northern Africa. These are my people, these Christians. If we’re paying attention, we’re grieving and praying for those in the crosshairs. If we’re honest, we’re asking the sobering question, “What if I was the one kneeling on the shore of a Libyan beach in an orange jumpsuit with a blade at my neck? Am I ready to die for Jesus?”*
Frankly, I’m a little discouraged by the scarcity of Esthers in the Church who use their voices to advocate for a people group living in cross-hairs of ISIS and their crew of ideological clones. These are my people, too: the Jews. The old anti-Semitism that’s long held Europe in its thrall (forced expulsions and “conversions”, pogroms, ghettos, concentration camps) has been re-oxygenated by ISIS & Co. The Jewish media I follow on Facebook (Jerusalem Post, Tablet, Jewish Daily Forward, Israel365, Step Up For Israel, and the American Jewish Committee) do a great job reporting on incidences of anti-Semitism. Once in a while, the rest of the world pays attention, like when someone with ties to ISIS, a gun and a death wish marches into a French grocery store and starts killing Jews just because they’re Jewish or takes aim outside a Danish synagogue. Here’s the thing: This isn’t just an “over there” problem. There are warning shots being fired right here, too.