“Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias' own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” (Mark 6: 17-29)
In this passage Herod is torn. John the Baptist did what any good Christian would and told him not to marry Herodias because it was unlawful. This incited Herodias’ anger and she asked for John to be put to death. Herod cannot kill John without then having to face his followers, and he cannot leave him alone without slighting Herodias. After already sinning once by marrying her, Herod is faced again with the same question: do I sin, or do I not? This is a question that we as Christians are faced with everyday, both in daily battles against sin and temptation and in larger crises and decisions. Often we take these situations and try to find the best compromise - a way to get what we want without sacrificing too much. Sometimes these problems are convoluted and have no clear answer, but the majority of the time, the right answer can be found by answering the simple question of, “Do I sin, or do I not?” And all too often we fail to ask the question, and follow in Herod’s footsteps. Herod tried to please everyone and get what he wanted by toeing the line between right and wrong, seemingly doing neither. By imprisoning John, he opens the door for Herodias to manipulate the situation and have John killed. If Herod had simply refused outright to do anything against John, then John may not have been killed when he was. If Herod had not married Herodias in the first place, then it is likely that most, if not all, of these difficulties would not have come to pass.
So I challenge you. I challenge you to examine the patterns in your life, the questions you ask yourself, and the advice that you ignore. I challenge you to make the decision to act in accordance with God’s will, faithfully seeking counsel in place of pleasing everyone. I challenge you to do the necessary work of rooting out the small sins in your life so that they do not lead you to death. Amen.