What An Ancient Jew Can Teach You About Relationships

We’re studying Esther in church, as a church. We were given a study guide so we can all go in-depth. This book is fascinating, especially when you consider the history. The Xerxes in Esther is the same one who faced the Spartan King Leonidas at Thermopylae.

Meet Mordecai and Esther

In chapter two we meet a pair of cousins, Mordecai and Esther. He adopted her after her parents died. When Xerxes took her into his harem, we discover in Esther 2:11 how much Mordecai cared for her.

Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.

He kept in touch. His level of concern apparent by how often he was checking on her emotional state and circumstances.

Lessons From Mordecai

The first lesson is to stay in touch with who you care for. The internet makes it easier for long-distance relationships or keeping up with the day-to-day of friends and family. Texting, too, is convenient; it just sits there until looked at.

However, that only gives us part of the story. We usually put our best face forward on Facebook and hide our struggles.

This brings us to our second and third lessons, check on their emotional and spiritual states, and know what’s going on in their lives. 

Mordecai kept in touch with Esther, checking on her often. He wanted to know what was happening, and how she felt about it. To sum up the lessons, stay in touch with who you care for by staying involved in their lives and how they’re handling it. Bottom line: relationships matter.

Retaliation and Love; Learning Under Jesus

Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.

Did Jesus really just challenge an ancient rule?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

This is a widely known principle of equal justice that he’s challenging, though only in Israel does it apply across class lines. Social standing can’t protect you, even a king can be punished…

I thought for a moment…if anyone was brave enough…

Not only that, Jesus challenged fighting for your honor. He knows it is an insult to be backhanded across the face. You can actually take someone to court for it.

Yet Jesus is saying don’t retaliate…

Jesus had paused to let it sink in, then continued, “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

“My coat!” a disciple exclaimed.

The Law says a creditor couldn’t legally take your coat, it may be all someone has. I’m not sure if it’s hyperbole, Jesus using an extreme to instruct us to cooperate above and beyond.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Seriously…when a Roman soldier makes me lug his junk one mile, Jesus wants me to carry it another mile? They’re invaders, an occupying army! He wants us to voluntarily comply, why?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Oh…hating your enemy did come from a few of King David’s Psalms according to a few Jewish groups. Loving my neighbor came straight from Leviticus.

Nonresistance wasn’t unheard of, some saying that if something that can be taken away, it didn’t matter. Yet, Jesus is going deeper, telling me to love my enemies so I can follow God’s example.

Even tax collectors and Gentiles, unclean as they are, do good for those connected to them. Jesus wants us to be and do more than they. To be perfect as God is perfect. No small thing…

Matthew 5:38-48
Exodus 22:26-27
Leviticus 19:18

You Are Like Those Who You Are Around The Most

It’s said that who you are is made up of the five people you’re around the most. It’s a pretty good argument for heeding the Bible verses on choosing friends wisely from Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25; 27:17 and 1st Corinthians 15:33.

“Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.”

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
do not associate with one easily angered,
or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.”

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.”

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

There is truth in it, the closer you are to someone, the more influence they have with you. Your spouse or best friend in comparison to an acquaintance or someone you just met. Take a look at who you are around the most.

List them.

What aspects of them have you taken on?

From my best friend, I get the protectiveness and tendency to ‘adopt’ anyone I’m really close to as family. Casey’s openness teases out my humor and willingness to be more open with others. That’s just a couple of examples.

What about your relationship with God?

He should be your biggest influence. That relationship with Jesus should be the closest one you have. Is it? Do you spend time with him daily?

You probably thought, ‘I don’t have time.’ Am I right?

It happens. Look, if you don’t have time for an in-depth study every day, that’s okay.

  • Pray
  • Worship
  • Read or Listen to the Bible

When you can study it, great! The key is you have to make time.

It can be praying while driving. Thinking or poking at a memorized passage of Scripture while doing something on autopilot. I do that a lot.

What I love is what I call my ‘appointment with God’ every Monday. After posting these posts, all electronics and media are turned off for the morning. It’s just me and God. Sometimes it’s normal study time or I’ll chase something around. I’ll read in my systematic theology textbook (nerd alert). I may ‘sing’ or just sit in silence (“Be still and know that I am God…”-Psalm 46:10),

Why do I do this?

Because of the truth in John 15:5-6. I need that connection every day. You need that connection. If not, my patience, love, kindness and the better parts of my personality are weaker. I get irritable, angry, and sarcastic.

It’s harder to deal with the world and life like that. Harder to glorify God and reflect him.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Is life getting you down? Can’t seem to do right? Check who you spend the most time with and make sure God’s in that group.