Friday, May 8, 2015
An Open Letter to All Christian Pastors
So I’m reading the first chapter in Esther. You remember the story. King Ahasuerus held a banquet for his many guests, and at a strategic point in the celebration he called for his queen. He wanted to show her off. But Vashti refused to come.
I’ve glossed over these few verses many times over the years. I know about the male-dominated culture of the Persian Empire, a dominance which also existed throughout the ancient world. But only recently did I realize to read the vignette in verses 10-18 with 21st century eyes is to miss a vital spiritual point nestled in those few verses – a point that transcends centuries and cultures: Scandal is never a private matter. Its ripples stir dissent and confusion even in unexpected areas of society.
The king’s counselors understood that danger. That’s why they told the king: “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.’ This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way . . . . and there will be plenty of contempt and anger” (Esther 1:16-18).
Five hundred years before Queen Vashti snubbed her king, the Psalmist implored his God: May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; May those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel (Psalm 69:6). And five centuries after the queen fell from her king's favor, St. Paul exhorted the religious of his day: You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you . . . (Romans 2:23-24).
From the anemic response during the last two generations of many American clergy to sin in their ranks and in their congregations, it seems even the king’s pagan counselors understood far better than we the danger any society faces when it adopts tolerant attitudes toward sin and rebellion. They understood far better than many of our religious leaders that insipid responses to scandals stain the name of God and scatter the sheep for whom Jesus died.
Oh, pastors, hear us! Hear the scattered sheep bleating for courageous shepherds to gather us back to the fold. We need your strong leadership in this desperate time.