How many times have you let others pressure you into doing things you really didn’t want to do? Some call it peer pressure. Some call it pride. Some call it wanting to fit in. Some call it avoiding embarrassment. Think about it. Why does something in your gut tell you that you shouldn’t do what you’re about to do? Because your gut is another name for your heart and your heart is the dwelling place of God.
Herod didn’t want to harm John. Something in his gut told him John was a righteous and holy man. Yet he tried to avoid embarrassing himself by having John beheaded. The truth is he’s looked like a weak-minded fool to the world for two thousand years already. How’s that for an embarrassing legacy?
This begs the question: Who are you trying to please or impress? Who is so important in your mind that you’d willingly hurt someone in order to save face?
Sin begins with a chain reaction in people trying to please someone else: Herod wanted to please his wife’s daughter for putting on a good performance. The daughter wanted to please her mother. Herodias wanted revenge and she used her daughter to get it. Herod wanted to save face in front of his friends and community leaders. Ultimately it led to doing harm to a good person.
Have you ever used your influence to get someone to do something they didn’t want to do – maybe to get back at someone who embarrassed you or who offended you? It happens all the time when couples divorce. People hold grudges and they use their children to try to hurt each other. It happens in the workplace, using coworkers to get even.
Not only does Herodias use her husband to get revenge, even worse, she uses her daughter. Parental pressure is a very strong thing. We teach our children they are supposed to obey their parents: the Bible says so. We teach our children this means they have to do what their parents say, or it will be a sin before God.
Children have a different kind of pressure – they don’t always know what is right. They can only trust their parent is telling them to do the right thing. The daughter in our story never even questioned her mother. She didn’t ask, “Why do you want me to do that?”
How many have told their children they don’t have to obey the fourth commandment if a parent is asking them to do something wrong? If following a parent or a superior’s instructions will end up hurting someone – it is our Christian duty to do the right thing because Jesus is our Guide in making our choices. That’s what following Jesus is all about. Jesus gave us a higher command – to love – because love is the fulfillment of the law.
That applies even when the instructions we are told to follow are in the Good Book. You see, there are some instructions in the Bible that have ended up hurting our neighbor. Martin Luther taught that if a law doesn’t serve love, then you can overlook it. More than that, he said get rid of it.
How do we know what is the right thing to do? The answer is found in asking that great question – what would Jesus do? He would serve love. What decision will bring good to my neighbor instead of harm?
The New Testament says God is love. To let God reign in your life is to let love reign in everything you do. To let your pride get hurt is better than letting your neighbor get hurt. When Love is guiding you, God is guiding you.
So what is the good news in this story about Herod and Herodias and her daughter? Maybe the good news is that you can trust your heart to tell you the right thing to do. You have invited God into your heart and Love said, “Yes.” God is love. God is in your heart. So you can trust what your heart is telling you when it tells you to do the right thing rather than harm your neighbor.
The good news is that Love is within you. Listen to Love when there’s a hard decision to make. And if you make a mistake, God still loves you, blesses you, forgives you, and doesn’t give up on you.