“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
We now have a fresh debate over the propriety of the Crusades. We now have more finger pointing over who is responsible for slavery, emancipation, and gains in civil rights. Peggy Noonan is correct in observing that this finger pointing is at least useless and at worst counterproductive. She argues get the job done in the Middle East and quit the role of pontificating about individual sins.
How should Christians react to these things? Should they wring their hands and confess the sins of other people and other generations? Or should they stand up and get the job done? The book of Esther has a lot to say about how Christians should react to these claims.
Esther, if you recall, was an exiled Jew in the kingdom of the Persians and Medes. Esther, at the prompting of her cousin and guardian Mordecai, sought to marry the king, King Ahasuerus. However, at the prompting of Mordecai, Esther concealed her identity as a Jew. Ultimately, Esther was successful in wooing the king and he made her his queen. At the same time, King Ahasuerus had a subordinate official Haman, who hated Mordecai and the Jews. Haman undertook a PR campaign against the Jews directed at the King. The result of the PR campaign was the following order:
Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.
After some scheming with Mordecai, Esther finally revealed her identity to the king:
If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.
As a result, King Ahasuerus authorized Mordecai to issue the following proclamation:
And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.
The first lesson to be learned from this story is that the church must reveal its identity to the king. The church is not an ethical club. The church is a kingdom. It is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, in his great commission, did not direct his followers to bind up wounded souls only, although that is certainly an appropriate activity for the church. His first directive was to make disciples of nations. The church must take on that role.
The second lesson to be learned is that Jesus authorizes the church to defend itself, verbally as well as with force. Today, the church is far too reticent to defend its conduct. The church’s leader is the Holy Spirit. How can we not defend the church’s conduct when it has such a leader? Words are an appropriate defense today in America rather than violence because of the story of the Christian kingdom. Look at the difference between the Middle East and America. We have peace and we can engage in peaceful dialogue in America because of the rule of law brought to America by our Puritan forefathers. But force is not precluded. The Crusades were not wrong. They were actions of self-defense. Violence was not precluded during the time of the Crusades. It was authorized by the king. Likewise, the use of force by Christians in the Middle East is not prohibited today, as appears now to be occurring. Self-defense is always a justification for a measured forceful response.
The third lesson to be learned is that the church must advise the king. When Esther revealed her identity, King Ahasuerus asked for her advice. She gave it; and he took it. The church must speak for its people, the followers of the Lord Jesus and direct the king to guard His followers. It must defend the church’s reputation. It must quit genuflecting over some minor imperfections in the execution of what was essentially a just cause in defending itself in the Crusades. It must also engage the issues of the day and not hide behind section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Debate is good. There are questions the king must get advice on from the church. With a country so deeply in debt, where can we best defend His people? As one primary option, we should defend the boarders. As another, we should encourage other nations to help Christians defend themselves. Should America prosecute that defense? That is a good question. We have left King Obama unengaged for long enough. He has made far too many ill-informed statements. He must be informed and he must be corrected.