Monday, October 17, 2016

The Herod in us

When Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for judgment, Herod "was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him he hoped to see him perform some miracle." Herod's interest in Jesus was totally self-serving. He wanted to be entertained by Jesus performing some supernatural deed in front of him. He had no interest in Jesus other than as it benefited him. It was all about him (Herod) and what he could gain from the connection with Jesus. The possibility that he needed to fall on his face before Jesus and spend the rest of his life following Him wasn't remotely in his thoughts. It's easy to demonize Herod, a vile man who likely deserves whatever criticism which might be heaped on him. But, perhaps there is more of Herod in us than we would care to admit. Is it possible that for some, participation in church is like that? It's all about us - what we can get for ourselves: contact with friends, entertainment (not expensive either), affirmation from others, a self-satisfying sense of "spirituality," connections for our business or social life or children, esteem for being a "good Christian," etc? Is it possible that not everyone connects with Jesus' church for totally unselfish reasons -- in order to love God and love others, to serve, to sacrifice for a cause, to give, to help others, etc? That is not to suggest that it is inappropriate to go to church out of a deep sense of personal need and desire for forgiveness and transformation for oneself. Hopefully the motivation is not merely for relief and feeling good, but springs from a repentant heart full of grief for how one's selfishness has hurt others, from a desire to be made whole in order to please God and serve others. No wonder at the judgment Jesus will say to "many" very religious people, "I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:23). I would be less than honest if I didn't acknowledge that the same self-centeredness and self-seeking is a pervasive temptation for pastors like myself. Motivations may be mixed and complex but I am painfully aware how easy it is to do good things with selfish motives -- secretly concerned more for self than for others. I need Paul's reminder, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a changing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom great mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1ff). P.S. Remembering that we are all "mixed bags" -- beautiful because made in God's image and broken by sin -- it might still be a revealing exercise to attempt to discern the primary motivations of those running for president -- recognizing that we cannot fully know another's heart even though their words and actions are often revelatory. It's THE HEROD TEST: Is the pattern of their lives characterized by self-seeking or by serving and sacrificing to help others? Of course such an evaluation may divide "along party lines" unless we can somehow rise above that sometimes Herodian plague.

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