"If I perish, I perish." These are the haunting words of Esther as she prepares to enter boldly into the presence of King Ahasuerus. Looking at the story we may think this seems like an odd statement because Esther is the queen and she was highly favored by the king. Why in the world would she perish? Well, like Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, she was about to break a law, or at least take a huge risk. The law that she was risking transgressing was that no one was to enter into the kings presence without being summoned. If they did so they would be killed. Now there was one caviat, if the king extended his septer to the person then they would be spared. Now, I shouldn't have to explain the deep imagery of this as it relates to the way we enter into the presence of God and I don't want to spend much time on it because I want to focus on something else, the attitude that Esther has about this risk. "If I perish, I perish." These words are echoed by the aforementioned trio that would ultimately end up being thrown into the fiery furnace when they, in so many words, tell the king that they will not bow to his statue because God can deliver them, and even if He doesn't they still want it to be known that they wouldn't bow to an idol.
Where does an attitude like this come from? Why would people be so willing to forfeit their lives for what they believe in? Simply put, that is the message of the Bible, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our lives are not our own. Jesus tells us that if we love our lives we will lose them and if we lose our lives for His sake we will gain eternity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells is that the call of Christ to follow Him is for Him to bid us come and die.
I think this idea flies in the face of some popular theology in America, and perhaps other parts of the world, today. Some call it "Prosperity Gospel," I would simply like to label it incomplete theology (that is a small effort to be kind to this type of preaching). This theology is marked by the idea of "favor" and that we need nothing more than to claim God's favor in order to have it. Let me pause for a moment and look at the One who was the favored One of God, His Son Jesus Christ. In fact, let me start with His mother, Mary. She was declared to have been blessed with God's favor and what did that bring with it? Yes, it meant that she was blessed to carry and mother the very Son of God and surely this was a blessing. It also meant that she almost lost her relationship with her fiance, Joeseph. Mary was ascended to a place of power and for all we know she never lived a life of royalty and wealth but remained the wife of a carpenter.
Now let me get back to Jesus. There is no doubt that He was favored by God, He was God's Son. He also lived a relatively short life and one that was defined by poverty and ultimately a cruel and painful death. In the end Jesus was called cursed by hanging from a tree. If these are the plans that God has for me, plans for good and not for evil, then most would decline the generous offer.
The words of a certain, famous preacher are that, "we are strong, we are able.," and that we should be "speaking victory over the future." What of Paul who found that when he was weak, then he was the most strong. This is the man who claimed to be the chief among sinners and most unworthy to carry the Gospel to the world. The same preacher said that the congregations "favor was going to rub off," on him and the other congregants. If that were true then it would be wonderful because more people would be dying to themselves and they would see the blessing, not of overflowing bank accounts, but of close communion with the Author and Perfector of our faith.
Finally, Victoria Osteen has written a book, which I have not read but the title tells me what I need to know, "Love Your Life." I don't know what the contents are but with a title like that I can hardly imagine that the message is, "If I perish, I perish." The message of the Gospel is not, "love your life." It is hate you life, deny yourself, get ready for pain and suffering like you have never experienced and then after that is all over and you die, then you can enter into bliss and joy like you could have never dreamed of.