By Chris Martin
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and author, who was killed by the Nazi regime in 1945. In the introduction to his book Life Together, a Christian classic on community, an English officer who was with Bonhoeffer during his last days is quoted:
On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment… He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, “Pastor Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one meaning for all prisoners—the gallows. We said good-by to him. He took me aside: “This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life.”
Bonhoeffer knew what it meant to follow his God in the face of opposition of the highest order. In the book of Esther, we find another man of courage: Mordecai. Following his honoring and promotion of Haman, King Ahasuerus commanded that all the royal staff and others in his presence bow down and pay homage to Haman. Mordecai refused to bow before Haman (Esther 3:2), defying the king’s command and dishonoring Haman. This filled Haman with rage and led him to develop his plot to kill the Jews.
Of course, a plot to commit genocide does not likely spring up from one encounter between two men. Though we don’t fully understand the origin or current of animosity running between Haman and Mordecai, we do know that Haman came from a long line of powerful men who hated the Jews (Esther 9:24). Perhaps this, along with his devotion to God, is what led Mordecai to act in opposition to King Ahasuerus’s command. And perhaps that history is why Haman becomes so affronted by Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him, why his reaction is so extreme.
While we don’t have all the information, I do know this: In our flesh, it is far too easy to become like Haman, allowing anger and vengeance to take root and crowd out reason, let alone compassion. And it is far more difficult to resist an oppressor as Mordecai did, by standing in faith and truth, resolute and strengthened by God. When I read these passages from Esther, I recognize just how tempting it might be, in the face of oppression and impending death, to bow down and give my adoration and my worship to something lesser, rather than trusting God Himself.
God willing, we may never face such devastating circumstances. But we will certainly face the pressure of friends, family, or colleagues to worship persons, lifestyles, policies, standards of living, or success. The remedy to those pressures is to practice devotion to our God now, today and every day.
Written by Chris Martin