Are there thoughts in the back of your mind that trouble you this week? Guilt has a way of affecting us in ways that we are not even aware of.
There is a story in the bible about a man who had a guilty conscience and I suspect guilt can affect us, in the same way as it affected this man. It doesn’t matter that this man lived around 2000 years ago.
Herod had not personally known Jesus, but he heard about him and when he heard about Jesus, being a superstitious man, he thought that John the Baptist must have risen from the dead and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him. (Mark 6:14). How in the world did he reach a conclusion like that? The text tells us what other people were thinking at the time. (OHP 4) DR 15 Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ (now the Old Testament did indeed say that Elijah would come again, in fact many people though John the Baptist was Elijah, but John the Baptist denied that, so) And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’ 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, (No, that’s no right, this is) ‘John, whom I beheaded, (and) he has been raised from the dead!’(Mark 6: 15-17) We now begin to get an insight to how he has jumped to this conclusion. Herod was feeling guilty for having beheading John.One commentator said, “he believed John had come back from the dead to condemn him for what he knew was an illegal act”. (Mark 6: 17-18)
Herod Antipas, had converted to Judaism, whilst at the same time knowing the taking a wife of even a half-brother whilst the brother was alive was forbidden under both Jewish law and current social thinking. Even so he divorced his wife and then he married Herodias and that’s the beginnings of this series of events. John the Baptist then comes along and basically says you know the Mosaic law forbids this. John the Baptist confronts him and says, just because you are king does not give you a get out of jail card for this offence. Herod’s reaction is to have him arrested However, “Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him”. (Mark 6: 19) Herod’s wife is furious that he had told her husband he had committed a sin by marrying her and she nurses a grudge and that leads to vindictiveness that in turn leads to the desire to kill him Herod was probably also aware that the people respected John the Baptist and he feared there might be an uprising if he had him executed. Mark 6 21-22 then tells us; “Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests”.
This is not Herod daughter, it his new wife’s daughter, her daughter from a previous relationship, most probably the daughter of his own brother. For the daughter of a king, a Princess to come in and dance a sensuous dance in front of the great and the good including the leading men of Galilee, was scandalous. One commentator I read said, “She exposed and demeaned her daughter because such dances were the art of the professional prostitute only”. The mother is so angry, so vindictive, that when this birthday party happens she saw an opportunity to literally prostitute her daughter to gain control over her husband.
The men didn’t mind though, and neither did Herod after all it wasn’t his own daughter. Herod is so aroused by the dance, he says to his step-daughter; ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ and he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’(Mark 6: 22-23)
This may sound outlandish, but do you think this is the first time a man in a group men drinking to excess have ever made an outlandish claim or promise. Further proof that her own Mother had put her up to this and as when given the opportunity she quick as can be she says, right now, “Give me the head of John the Baptist”. Note the speed at which they act, they don’t give Herod much time to think about this or change his mind. Her entire focus is to eliminate the one man who had the courage to confront her with her sin, and to do it by any means no matter how depraved.
A question worth considering for a minute is, could Herod have got out of this? Could he have resisted the pressure to do this? Could he have found some way to get out of this. Maybe you could argue that he shouldn’t have made this stupid promise to begin with, but the fact is he did, and he then succumbed to social pressure. Herod was indeed a wicked man, but there is something else going on here. Herod was also a weak man and one can often lead to the other. Herod simply did not have the moral courage to do what was right. He crumbled under the influence of a wicked woman, combined with the social expectations and the peer pressure of those around him.
What should we do when we feel such pressures? We should recognise those pressures when them come and allow them to push us towards the Lord. It is when we lean on the Lord we are given the strength to resist those pressures Many of us have responded to peer group pressure in our lives. Many of us have gone and done things we shouldn’t have for fear of what others might say or think. Many people have done things far worse than they ever planned to do just because they feared the laughter or rejection of their so called friends. Even noted Atheist H G Wells noticed this when he said; “The trouble with so many people is that the voice of their neighbours sounds louder in their ears than the voice of their conscience”.
Herod has John the Baptist killed, out of moral weakness but the starting point of all this was when Herod jumped to the conclusion that John the Baptist had come back from the dead because he felt guilty. This story is really about the consequences of guilt and the catastrophic affects it can have if it is not dealt with. The problem is when people are fearful, angry or guilty, they can’t think straight. Herodias was angry and that drove her to degrade her daughter and bring about the death of John the Baptist. When any of us are angry we are very inclined to not think straight and even do stupid or terrible things. The big point of this story is guilt because that’s what sin does for you it makes you guilty and feeling guilty also makes you not think straight and makes you more likely to do the wrong things and make more wrong choices.
It affects the way you think, it makes you react out of emotion and you stop making rational decisions. Unresolved guilt means you become conflicted in everything you do, and the voice of the devil in your ears tells you are a hypocrite. However, the good news for everyone is that there is a solution to guilt.
First and foremost, you need to trust the Lord, because when you do that you are given the ultimate defence against guilt. The bible is very clear about that when it says;
There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
Many Christians I know have trusted in Christ, however, when they fall into sin, feel guilty. So, what do you do when you’re a Christian and you sin. The first thing you should do is confess it privately to the Lord, because;.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The word confess, just means to repeat something back. You don’t have to seek out a religious leader in order to do it either. In the case of sin, you just look at what you did, and call it what it is before the Lord. It wasn’t an error, it wasn’t a lack of judgement, it was sin. By confessing it out loud all you are doing is agreeing with what God already knows it is. The word confession confuses people, it just means your acknowledging what it is you have done and saying you don’t want to do it any more. It sometimes helps to do that with another Christian, but you should only do this if you have complete confidence in that person, so they can support you and hold you to account if you fall back into that particular sin.
What happens if we refuse to live that way and refuse to acknowledge our sin:
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1: 10)
Be clear headed about these things do what 1 John 1: 9 says and, “confess your sins, and He will be faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Don’t pretend you have not sinned, when you know you have because in doing so you make God out to be a liar”. When you get it wrong just acknowledge it and make sure you don’t do the same thing again in the future. Don’t live in denial, confess your sin and go do what is right. Guilt is the most corrosive of things because it makes a person not think straight. People will bend there thinking process to the point of breaking rather than deal with their guilt. They will live in denial, they will rationalise, they will justify, to carry on doing what they are doing, rather than just do what’s right. That’s the key, choose your direction for your life. When it comes to moral choices, you also need to choose the right path. Choose to be free of Guilt and confess you sin before God Call it what it is and accept the path of repentance and forgiveness. Choose the right path, to release you from feeling guilty about your past, and to protect you, and prevent you from feeling guilty in the future. Choose the path every day of being and becoming a follower of Christ.
May God Bless you this week.