Esther knew what was at stake in her decision. No one approached King Xerxes without an invitation and lived to tell about it. Not even her renowned beauty could spare Esther the same fate. Yet who better to intervene?

Mordecai reminded her that God would save his people from Haman's plot one way or another. So why not play a leading role in God's redemption story, Mordecai reasoned: "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).

Esther risked her life, and God saved the Jews. Yet her relationship with Xerxes was a double-edged sword. While her influence represented the Jews' best hope, it also caused her to pause, thinking she could survive Haman's plot as a member of the royal family.

In the same way, evangelicals have wrestled with our relationship to power. When in a position of influence (and in our better moments), we leverage power to better the lives of our neighbors. Cultural savvy enables us to successfully translate the gospel for a changing world.

But it's a double-edged sword—influence and savvy can also dull the gospel's transcendence. We achieve a royal position, but soon we are using a worship service to Almighty God to hawk Justice Sunday III. We worry that the culture has forgotten the meaning of Christmas, but we cancel Sunday worship because it's Christmas. We fret because of our culture's biblical illiteracy, but sign up for the Sunday school class on our pet social-justice cause rather than the Bible or theology track. In short, we complain that the church has sold out to culture, but we subconsciously give our allegiance to a political or social subculture and champion its agenda.

Scripture provides no systematic teaching for how we should relate to ...

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