Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Esther 2:5-8, 15-23, Acts 17:16-34, John 12:44-50
A young man asked me for advice about going on his first job interviews. He was going through his “emo” phase – hair grown out over his eyes, t-shirts with four-letter words, black nail polish. I suggested that for some employers he’d need to adjust his look – hair out of the face, collared shirt, remove the polish. He replied: “If they don’t like me the way I am, it’s their loss.”
“Tell me how that pays,” I said, and explained people are rarely hired to be themselves; employers hire the parts that fill the role for the duration of the shift and want you to leave the rest at home. If they ask you to compromise your values, it’s not the right job for you; if they forbid t-shirts with rude gestures, make the concession. Self-expression is important, but not in all ways at all times.
Esther had a sort of involuntary job interview when she was taken with many women to the king’s palace so he could select a queen. She listened to the king’s eunuch, who “had charge of the women” and asked only what he advised. She also remembered her uncle Mordecai’s advice, and didn’t revealed her kindred or her people” who were Jewish exiles in Persia. The king chose Esther because he believed her beauty and temperament filled the role of queen.
Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the king, and Esther passed this information along, gaining favor for herself and her uncle. As Esther’s story unfolds, she wisely decides when to reveal herself, when to hold back, and how to gain the trust of the king.
Sharing the gospel is not unlike interviewing for a job, or courting a king – it’s not dishonest to exercise discretion. We don’t want to blurt out absolutely everything in a take-me-or-leave-me ultimatum. Trust and relationships take time. Bosses, spouses, and friends are more receptive to challenging ideas when they come from a trusted ally than from a stranger who claims to know better. People are not projects; to bring them to Christ, we must learn to love them first.
(For further thoughts on today’s reading from Acts 17, see The Unknown God.)
Comfort: You don’t have to win converts on the spot; take your time to get to know people, and Christ will shine through.
Challenge: Be deliberate about holding and freeing your tongue.
Prayer: Loving God, teach me when to speak and when to remain silent. Amen.
Discussion: Has your enthusiasm for a project ever backfired?
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