Today's verses are Mark 6:16-18: "But when Herod heard of it, he said, 'John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.' 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. For John had been saying to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.'" The question was circulating, "Who is Jesus?" Because of his teaching, miracles and exorcisms, different answers were being given. Herod Antipas, serving as an administrator under Rome's authority, answered that he thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life.
John the Baptist had publicly charged Herod Antipas with breaking the moral law of God by marrying Herodias, the former wife of his half brother Herod Philip. Philip was still living at the time. With boldness, John the Baptist demanded that Herod repent of his sin. As a result, Herod put John in prison.
I am struck by John the Baptist's moral courage. His call to be a clarion voice for moral righteousness was unyielding. He knew what Herod was doing was wrong. He knew it was a holy offense to a holy God. He did not care about the consequences. He had been called by God to be a prophet, in the spirit of Elijah, perhaps the Old Testament's greatest prophet. Elijah constantly challenged the godless morality of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. They put death threats on his life. But Elijah's and John's voices were the voices of God. Their voices were the voices of righteousness.
We live in a world of political expediency. People often make decisions about moral decisions mostly concerned with outward appearance and appeal. Politicians make moral decisions based on votes. People seldom speak out against immorality and what's wrong in God's sight to be accepted. More and more resist the call to moral courage.
John the Baptist's obedience to moral righteousness and his moral courage cost him his life. Herod Antipas threw him into jail and had him beheaded. John could have been silent and lived. But he would have lived knowing he had practiced moral cowardice.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous German theologian, died in a Nazi prison camp. He had stood firmly against Hitler and his unrighteous policies. Famously, he once said, "If you don't have anything to die for, you have nothing to live for."
Would your voice challenge the moral unrighteousness of our day? Would you dare risk rejection and loss, perhaps even death, for standing for what is right?
God calls us all to moral courage. Will we rightly answer?