The “Ghost” of my Sin

[reprinted from February 12, 2009]

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holyman. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled, yet he like to listen to him.    Mark 6:17-20 (NIV)

It’s easy to think of any of the various Herod’s that ruled over various parts of Palestine in the first centuries before and after Jesus’ birth as extraordinarily evil men, totally unlike any of us. But this passage presents a characteristic of Herod Antipas, the Herod of our story that is a common human failing. We can spend so much time in horror that he had John the Baptist beheaded, that we forget the way in which it happened. What happened to Herod is something that can happen to any one of us.

The bottom line is: we don’t like to have our own sin pointed out. Oh, we have plenty of ways of avoiding saying that straight out. The other person is overly critical, or controlling, or nagging, or just plain negative. Perhaps they’re proud, arrogant and judgmental. We’ll think or say just about anything to avoid simply admitting that they make us angry because they point out our sin.

Of course, it’s quite possible for people to be arrogant or overly judgmental. There are people who nag and those who criticize. But we use that type of people as an excuse to avoid hearing about our own faults.

In the four verses I quoted today, Herod starts down the road of temptation. It will end with an unjust execution and the grisly display of John’s head on a plate. But it starts with an every day offense. Herod was annoyed because John the Baptist called him out about his sin. Now God’s Spirit was still working on Herod, because he did recognize that John was righteous and holy. He didn’t even disagree with John about his sin. So he tried to shut him up by putting him in prison.

He probably even took fairly good care of him since he wanted to go listen to him every so often. But having John in prison probably made life seem so much safer. “I’ll just put him in prison, and keep him from inflaming people against me,” Herod may have thought. But that step was just the first one in the downhill slide.

Today ask yourself this: Can you take criticism? Can you handle it when people question your actions? If you are rebuked for doing something wrong do you make a correction or do you become angry?

These are questions I will ponder today and ask the Holy Spirit to correct my course. I do not want to start down Herod’s path!

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