Mordechai refused to bow to Haman, King Ahasuerus’ (or Xerxes, as the Greek translation calls him) advisor, and so Haman schemed a way to punish him and all the Jews.
Suspicion and scape-goating, unfortunately, are an oft-repeated response to foreign or marginalized people. There are many examples in contemporary and historical encounters between people of two different backgrounds, whether those differences are large or small, real or perceived.
Haman approaches the king, reminding him of “those people who live apart,” distinguishing them as different from the Persians, and somehow lesser. Exterminate them, Haman urges, force them out or kill them and take their property.
The targeting of people for exploitation, eradication, or intolerance may not seem like a hardship we will have to face personally, though even now it is happening across the globe. But how often do we feel like a person who is different? In what ways do we “live apart” because of what we believe or how we worship, what values we hold? Have you ever felt out of place, misfit, weird? Maybe for what you wear, what your interests are, who you hang out with?
God reminds us time and again that God’s people are those “apart,” those who don’t belong to this age, or society or even this Earth. God set aside and chose the Jewish people for the covenant, the promise of favor and deliverance. Jesus came and ministered among outcasts, misfits, weirdos. His message was that they did not conform, should not conform because there was a place prepared for them and that they weren’t given value by worldly measures. “Blessed are you,” he said, “when the world persecutes you for my sake. The kingdom of heaven is yours.”