Summary: First in a series of sermons based on the personalities involved in the beheading of John the Baptist. This sermon focuses on the difficulty of living a holy life when surrounded by a lack of it.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
“Living Holy in a Not So Holy World”
Who said the Bible is boring?
Whoever it was hadn’t read this story.
It has more plots and subplots than an episode of NCIS or a John Grisham legal thriller.
This story has four main characters: John the Baptist, King Herod, Herodias, and Salome; Herodias’ daughter.
During the coming weeks we are going to spend some time reflecting on each of these individuals.
We will find that they demonstrates an important aspect of our society.
Today, we begin with John the Baptist.
I do not need to remind you of how difficult it is to live the life Jesus has called us too live.
Attempting to live the life of a Christian is becoming more and more out of the main stream.
Living what would be called a “Holy Life” is almost out of the question. Society tells us we must do whatever is necessary to succeed and to keep up with the Kardashians.
This philosophy of life is being instilled in our children in some not so subtle ways.
Our children are taught that if you want to be popular, to be mainstream, one must have the latest electronic gadget in our hand, skype on our ipad, or the latest fashion in Sperry’s on our feet.
To date, James Patterson has had 102 books published with three more due out in 2013.
His books have sold more than 100 million copies.
Before he published his first Alex Cross novel he co-authored a book that twenty years later still has people talking.
It is titled The Day America Told the Truth.
It was the first survey on morality in America.
It caused quite a stir.
Among other things, it reported that most Americans said they would steal, lie, and even commit adultery if they knew that they would not be caught.
These finds suggest that living a holy life is almost impossible, if in fact desirable.
John the Baptist found himself in a similar situation.
The world in which he lived was pretty unholy.
Even though it was a culture saturated with religion and law, it was a society characterized by Jesus as being “white washed tombs.”
What he meant was that things often appear to be nice and tidy on the outside but inside was the sickening stench of death.
Even the leading political official Herod was caught up in an open adulterous, if not incestuous marriage.
His autobiography could have been titled: The Scandalous Life of a King Gone Wild.
Most of society turned its head and pretended it was not happening.
John the Baptist was different.
He was able to maintain a holy life while living in an unholy world.
He was able to do this by remaining faithful to his convictions.
Without question, he had his conviction.
John said to Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”
John believed that there are things in life that are right and other things that are not.
Upon his heart was written a moral code that guided his life and served as the basis for his conviction.
When we attempt to live a life worthy of the Gospel it is because our understanding of "worth" is far different from the worlds.
John the Baptist was beheaded because he would not go along with the status quo.
John gave his life because of his commitment to truth as he understood it, much like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his struggles with Nazism and Hitler.
Being a pastor in the German Lutheran Church, Bonhoeffer was forced to choose between his loyalty to God or to an insane ruler.
He was executed in 1945 for the opposition he voiced to the satanic rule of Hitler. (Eric S. Ritz, Faith in Conflict)
We too have convictions, but for one reason or another, we often choose to keep them to ourselves.
Our unholy world tells us, “Don’t make waves. Play along with the game. Don’t alienate anyone because you never know when you might need their help. And besides, no one wants to be thought of as politically incorrect.”
William Sloane Coffin, Jr., said, “The Christian church is called to respond to Biblical mandates like truth-telling, confronting injustice, and pursuing peace.”
There comes a time when we must take a stand.
Not just the obvious concerns as war or capital punishment, but in the moment by moment living of life.
We must decide: Will I do this or not?
Will I be faithful to my convictions?
I have always been a Harrison Ford fan.
I mean, any 70 year old who wears an earring can’t be all bad.
One of my favorite movies is titled “Regarding Henry.”
It is the story of a successful lawyer, living in a gorgeous house, with a beautiful wife and daughter.