The Gift of Identity
“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.”
The past few months have been fraught with conversations about citizenship, nationality, refugees, immigration, and belonging. As a Christian in America, it can be easier for some people to jump into conversations about citizenship as a legal identification and yet criticize others for using race or ethnicity as an identifier. The phrase, “We are all one in Christ,” is often the response when identity is expressed in terms of race or ethnicity, but similar phrases are less prevalent when talking about issues of citizenship.
In the book of Esther, we see that Esther’s nationality and family background are an issue. She is asked to intentionally and actively hide her Jewish heritage, to the point of changing her name from Hadassah to Esther.
She isn’t one or the other. She is both. Esther’s Persian identity informs her Jewish identity, and vice versa. She is one person living in multiple worlds but, for a season, she hides that. For a season, Esther hides her faith.
How many times have I done the same thing?
I cannot hide my ethnicity as a Korean American. Given my facial features and my last name, people feel free to ask me, “No, where are you really from?” making it clear that an Anglicized first name doesn’t hide my ethnic identity.
But I can hide my faith.
I am supposed to live in this world, but not be of this world. Yet, it’s remarkably easy to blend in and avoid revealing my Christian identity and background when interacting with people who do not share my faith or background. Even among my closest friends, I often find myself wondering if I have become so good at being in this world that I have lost my way and forgotten who I really am, just like Esther did for a season.
Thankfully, Esther’s story doesn’t end there. Given the opportunity to reclaim her full identity and to proclaim it, Esther helps rescue her people from destruction.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
How is our identity as Christians Good News for those around us? Other than our Sunday worship routines, how might people know of your identity as a Christian? What practices, external and internal, reflect your identity as a Christian? How has your identity as a Christian shaped and informed your life?
Lord, please give us the courage to see the ways we’ve hidden our faith and the courage to reveal our identity to others. Amen.