The First Extreme: Conformity
We must follow God without fear or compromise.
We have already met Jonah, a scowling, spiteful little man in a chronic state of bellyache. The meaning of his name—"dove"—just doesn't fit. He's a vulture. He's merely a consumer—a man who measures a good day or a bad day by what's in it for him. He seeks God's blessing but avoids God's presence and call. He begs God to rescue him and then turns around and begs God to burn his enemies to the ground. He couldn't care less for the fate of thousands but is bitter over the disruption of his own comfort. He is a man angry enough to die when things don't go his way.
Jonah represents the people of God when they've lost the heart of God. He represents a church that's made comfort and isolation the mission instead of God's kingdom. In many ways, he is a picture of what the church in North America is in danger of becoming—insular, surly, and self-absorbed.
Jonah is one way to not be peculiar. We now turn to another Old Testament story to examine another way to not be peculiar. It's the story of Esther and a people who have become so of the world—so immersed and blended into the surrounding culture—that they're virtually indistinguishable from it.
A wounded king, his new queen, and his insecure assistant
The story takes place around 470 BC, in a palace in Susa, the capital of ancient Persia. It begins with King Xerxes throwing a raucous, riotous party for the leading men of his nation. On a drunken whim, the king orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and parade herself before all his besotted guests. She refuses, causing Persia's men to ask: What if all the women followed the queen's example, defying male demands?
Terrified at the prospects of such a thing, they convince the king to dispose ...
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Mark Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, and the author of numerous books including Your Church is too Safe.