What a Dark Bible Story Tells Us About Kindness

Salomé, by Henri Renault.Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public domain

Mark 6: 14-29 tells the story of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod. Most people know the story. Apart from the Bible, it is told in paintings and great operas. There is a whiff of evil decadence in there – Salome’s seductive dance in front of her stepfather, her reckless promise to give her whatever she wants, and her mother’s deadly instruction: “John’s Head.” -Baptist. It has all the makings of a certain type of Hollywood movie. It’s full of colors – especially the color of blood. It explores the darkest of human instincts and motivations.

But it’s not really a story about evil. It’s a story of kindness – the kindness of John the Baptist.

First, he talks about the demands of kindness.

Herod Antipas had married Herodias, who had married and divorced his brother Philip (also, confusedly, called Herod). As the Jewish historian Josephus described it in a shocked tone: “Herodias took it upon herself to confuse the laws of our land, and divorced her husband during his lifetime, and married Herod Antipas. . John couldn’t stay silent in the face of what he thought was wickedness; he had to talk. Religion is not just about making people nice. It makes us do things we don’t want to do and champion unpopular causes.

Second, he talks about the price of the property.

Verse 17 says that Herod had John bound and put him in prison. Josephus says it was the terrible desert fortress of Machaerus. He would pay with his life for offending Herod’s family. We cannot expect the defense of the truth to come without a price. In the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace of Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tell the king that they will not bow down to the image he has erected and that God is able to save them from the flames. . The point of the whole story, however, is in the following line: “But even if it doesn’t, we want you to know, O king, that it will not serve your gods or worship the image. of gold which you have set up “(verse 18). Even if there are consequences to be done quickly, it is always what we are called to do.

Third, he talks about the attraction of kindness.

Herod could not lock up John and forget him; nor would he have executed him voluntarily. He was drawn to her conversation and her teaching even if he rejected it.

The world cannot be indifferent to kindness. He may hate him and despise him, but he recognizes the spiritual power of a good man or woman. It is unsettling. It makes people wonder how they live and what they should be doing with their lives. Sometimes that makes them angry.

John the Baptist – Jesus’ cousin – was a good man who paid the price. All the qualities that he showed, Jesus showed them too. He spoke the truth to power and paid with his life – but over the past 2,000 years billions of people have been drawn to him.

Kindness is difficult and costly. But it’s part of our discipleship and that’s what Christians are called to do.

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods

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