Stand up for what is right
John also publicly criticised Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done. So Herod put John in prison, adding this sin to his many others. Luke 3:19-20
John the Baptist had a ministry of confrontation. He called the crowd a brood of snakes and delivered an uncompromising message. He believed that his ministry was to call the nation to repentance – and that included the king.
Anyone looking for a quiet life would have kept quiet about the king’s marital arrangements. It was well known that, on a visit to Rome, Herod Antipas had met and fallen in love with Herodias, the wife of his half-brother, Herod. Herodias was the daughter of another of Herod Antipas’ half brothers and so the marriage was totally improper by Jewish standards! Added to that, Herod Antipas was already married. You couldn’t make it up!
Most people chose to keep quiet about this scandal, knowing that the king would respond violently to any opposition. But that didn’t bother John the Baptist. He knew what his job was and he got on with it, even though he was imprisoned as a result.
Jesus called his followers to be peacemakers, and it is important to recognise that making peace often depends upon confrontation. Jesus was, essentially, a man of peace. Yet the Gospels reveal he was almost continually in confrontation with the religious leaders of his day.
He could have smiled sweetly and avoided them but, from the beginning of his ministry, he pointed out their hypocrisy and wickedness. In Matthew 23, he was at his most scathing, telling the people: “So practise and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practise what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23:3-4).
We can all be tempted to keep quiet in the face of evil, not wanting to stir up trouble for ourselves. However, if we are serious about making peace, Jesus will often call us to speak up, just as he, and John the Baptist, did.
When did you last speak up when you spotted wrong-doing?
Loving Father, forgive me for the times that I have kept quiet when I should have spoken up. Give me your love and courage so that I will always stand up for what is right. Amen