"Then Haman said to King Xerxes 'There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.'"
-Esther 3:8&9 New International Version (NIV)
In church, my Pastor taught us about the Book of Esther. When it came to this verse, he noted how we, as Christians, are a strange people to this world. We always have been, and we always will be. It really hit home for me because I'm a college student, and I've noticed how oppositional my views are with the World's views. And of all the religions and beliefs out there, Jewish and Christian believes tend to stand out the most.
I don't even need to be a historian to see it. The Hebrew and Jewish people were different by having a monotheistic belief in a time of mostly polytheism. Hebrews were enslaved by Egyptians and feared them when Moses tried to free them. When Isreal was divided into two Kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyria, then Assyria and the Southern Kingdom of Isreal was conquered by Babylon, and then Peria conquered Babylon. The Jewish people were then exiled for several years before being allowed to return, but not all of them returned to their homeland.
Xerxes became the King of Persia and went about conquering Greece but failed (the story of 300). He also married a Jew, Esther. And Haman, Xerxes' advisor, hated the Jews to the point of obsession. He issued a genocide of the Jews. Haman hated the Jews because he hated Mordecai. Being the advisor to a Persian King demands that all bow before Haman. Mordecai chose not to bow to Haman, ever. Even when Haman was promoted and his proposal for genocide was approved, a single look at Mordecai ruined Haman's day flawlessly. Interestingly though, Mordecai was also the caretaker for Esther, and he warned her that once the genocide takes place, even Esther, as the Persian Queen, would be in danger.
Xerxes isn't the best king around and approved of Haman's decree when he spoke of the strange ways of God's people (Esther 3:8&9 as shown above). He also exiled his former wife Vashti when she refused to be displayed as an object of power during one of the King's 1/2 year long parties. He never knew his new wife was among the people bound to be hung and executed. Another interesting bit was that Haman was hit with a tiny pang of conscious, when he saw Mordecai after appealing to the King. He "restrained" himself after being "full of rage," and then went to his wife and friends just to ask them what he should do with Mordecai. He built the gallows as they suggested.
At that point Esther made a feast for the King, Haman, and herself, to save the Jewish people (even at the risk of her own life and high role in society). It worked, and Haman was hung at the gallows he built for Mordecai. If I recall there is a Jewish feast to celebrate the deeds of Esther, but I'm not an expert in Jewish culture.
One of the points my Pastor noted, and the point I'm noting here is strangeness. God and the World don't mix, it's like oil and water, fire and ice. To the World, and those influence by the World, God and his people are strange. What Haman said about the "certain people" with customs "different from those of all other people" is true. We are strangers to the World and the World's ways. And we are always meant to be strangers. There were those who thought is strange of us to "Eat of the Flesh of Jesus, and drink of His Blood." People have said, "Christianity promotes cannibalism." Through a simple misunderstanding like that, we are deemed evil or alien.
And while every nation and ethnicity is different from one another Monotheistic beliefs like Christianity tend to stand out the most. It still lasts to this day. Remember the Holocaust? That was roughly 70 years ago. And even now, Christians are thought of as backward thinkers or homophobic freaks. And it's no secret that the Bible is the most banned book in the world (And in many countries that don't ban it, it is heavily restricted). It is unfortunate when horrible circumstances like the Holocaust and the Jewish Exile occur.
But there was something else my Pastor brought up; We were meant to be different. We were meant to be strangers in a strange land. God and the World don't mix, and never should mix. The World is cursed with Sin. God is Omnibenevolent, the World is corrupt with evil. As God's people we are meant to reflect and spread the love of God. We can't do that if we always take the easy path and idolize the World's ideals. For those who love the World, the love of God is not with him. There is no middle ground. And because of that we will always look strange to those with the World as their lens.
So if you're afraid of how the people of the World will see you when you obey God, don't be. He's always with you, and with Him at your side, you are safe and strong. He loves each and every one of us; sinners and saved, lost and found. As strange as we are to the World or to each other, we are all welcome in the all-encompassing love of God.