In Esther 3, we read of the rise of Haman, whose newly-obtained lofty position grants him the favour of the king to such a degree that he is to receive not only bowing, but also reverence from the members of the palace.
His pride is wounded by Mordecai, who will neither bow nor reverence him. The slighted Haman puts into motion a plot to kill every Jewish person under the rule of the king.
The state of Mordecai’s people was desperate. It is a situation that arose, one might argue, from his provocation of Haman. If he’d just reverenced him, Haman would have passed by, would he not?
The text does not give an explicit reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow – we learn that his co-workers kept asking him, but he wouldn’t give in. He would not conform, so they informed on him.
The reason Mordecai gave was simple and succinct: ‘I am a Jew.’
This is more than a mere statement of ethnicity – it is a statement full of meaning and significance. To say ‘I am a Jew’ is to reference innumerable implied statements about his identity, faith, and practices.
Indeed, so much lies beneath the statement ‘I am a Jew’, that it is immediately understood to be a complete answer to the accusation of law-breaking.
Mordecai risks the king’s displeasure, but not for any petty reason. He wasn’t being merely provocative, he was being faithful.
To be a Jew – to be a true Jew – was, at its minimum, to give Yahweh alone all honour and worship and glory. Mordecai will not render to Haman what is God’s. He reverences God alone. There is nothing else God’s people can do. A full answer to the demand to honour this man is a simple ‘I am a Jew’. It might cost him much to make the confession, but he knew that sin would be still more costly.
This is an example and a pattern for us as Christians in a hostile culture. Where it can be costly, where it renders you unpopular, where the daggers are out, you know it is wrong to honour men so you simply say, ‘I am a Christian.’
This is a complete answer. People may ask all sorts of questions and try to persuade you by all sorts of expectations, but sometimes the perfect reply is simply, ‘I am a Christian.’
Quite often when a Christian is peppered with questions, the real purpose of the exercise isn’t to gain answers – the questioner isn’t interested in your answer. In many witnessing situations, the questions are actually rather rhetorical.
Let every believer be confident in knowing that the most eloquent and complete apologetic that can sometimes be employed is a plain ‘I am a Christian’.