We see the scene repeated in many different movies. Two of the heroes are making plans in a dark hallway to do whatever they need to do to overthrow the evil emperor. The details are laid out. The heroes agree and finish their plans. They hug as they vow to work together, knowing that if their plot is revealed they will face instant death. Then they leave to carry out their plan. As the leave, a body steps out of the shadows. It’s the servant that everyone overlooks. He realizes his chance to curry favor with the emperor and off he goes….
That meme sticks with us because it happens so often. People get so engaged in their discussion/plans that they overlook the nondescript person sitting on the side. Two of King Xerxes’ officers got upset and planned a coup. They were trustworthy, or so the King thought. They guarded the doorway. No one could go in or out without getting approved by these two. But in their anger they began plotting to kill the King. They either didn’t notice Mordecai sitting there, or they assumed he was just a typical beggar and ignored him. “During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.” (Esther 2:21)
The rest of the story is simple. Mordecai, cousin of the Queen, heard of the plot and let Esther know. Esther told the King, an investigation ensued, and the two officers Biggy and Tere were executed. While that action would play a major part in the Esther story later on, there is an important reason for looking at this story. Notice people. All people. Notice the people in the shadows. Notice the people that everyone forgets. This isn’t, of course, a lesson in “Developing Conspiracies 101.” It is a ministry reminder. How easy is it to ignore the people holding the signs: “Will work for food,” or something along those lines? I sometimes consciously ignore them. If you would talk with them outside of their “workplace,” they would tell you not to give them money because they will use it for the wrong things, at least according to my pastor who has talked with them. But so often I won’t even make eye contact because I don’t want them to think that I might actually be ready to give them something.
There are others we don’t notice: the working single mother trying to take care of her kids. If we notice her, we’re probably judging her for having all those kids. That illegal immigrant who came over to give his family a better life; if we notice him, it’s to complain about how we should build a wall. As a teacher I should notice the kid who does just enough to pass without interacting much with others. I don’t know what we need to do to minister to these and other “shadow” people, but it begins by recognizing their existence and their status as a special creation of God. Jesus took the time to notice those people around Him. Remember the lady that reached through the crowd just to touch His clothing, hoping to get healed without causing problems? Jesus called her out to let her know that she was important. The problem I have when I don’t notice people is that they aren’t important to me at that instant. And, by seeing them as less important, I tear away a chunk of their humanity. God loves them just as much as He loves me and I have the responsibility to show them His grace.
Lord God, there are people in the shadows that I don’t notice. I’m too busy, or I’m afraid they’ll hit me up for money, or it’s way too hot out to be outside. Give me compassion for these people. Remind me of how much You love them, and help me to love them too. Help me to find ways to minister to all of the people who are hiding in the shadows around me.