Summary: In today's lesson we wrestle with what it means to repent and believe, as we examine King Herod's refusal to do so.
What is it that determines the choices we make? Is it our consciences? I ask this because my conscience is currently being pricked by advertisements I see in some magazines that promised me washboard abs within three months.
Well, it’s three months later and I still don’t have washboard abs. But I’d love to. It would be great to have “six-pack abs” where at present I have something that looks like a family-size pack of marshmallows!
To be honest, I would like the result of hard work without doing the hard work. But I realize more and more each day the truth of what Meryl Streep’s character says in The Bridges of Madison County, “We are the choices we have made.”
You see, advertisements are not aimed at developing a healthy conscience. Advertisers know that most people think of their consciences as an imposition on their lives. Conscience is a drag on our fun! It asks people to act in ways that inconvenience them. It either stops people from doing things that they would otherwise enjoy, or it takes away their enjoyment when they ignore their conscience and do the thing anyway.
Conscience is a nag! It never shuts up. It will not leave us in peace to live in the way we want to live.
And yet, if I had listened to my conscience three months ago, I would be much closer to having abs of steel, as opposed to having abs of mush.
Not only that, but listening to my conscience—and by that I mean the God-give sense of what is right and wrong—will affect far more than my body. It will affect the destiny of my soul. Why? Because “we are the choices we have made.”
17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:17-28)
Perhaps you have heard the story of a CEO who has taken on a new job. The outgoing CEO says to him, “Sometimes you will make wrong choices. You will. You will mess up. When that happens, I have prepared three envelopes for you. I left them in the top drawer of the desk. The first time you mess up by making a wrong choice, open envelope #1. The second time you mess up, open #2. The third time, open #3.”
For the first few months, everything goes fine. Then the new CEO makes his first wrong choice. So he goes to the drawer, opens up envelope #1, and the message reads, “Blame me.”
So, he does. “This is the old CEO’s fault. I inherited his problems. The mistake I made is really his problem.”
Everybody says, “Okay.” And it works out pretty well.
Things go fine for a while, and then the new CEO makes his second mistake. So, he goes to the drawer and opens up envelope #2. This time he reads, “Blame the Board.”