“And I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes and hearts.”
Those words were written in an op-ed by Frank Bruni in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times. Bruni was writing to say that homosexuality is no threat at all to a person’s religious liberty – just as long as that person doesn’t want to enjoy that liberty out in public. Hence the, “pews, homes and hearts” line. In short, Bruni would like to be gay whenever and however he wants while Christians with a different point of view keep their opinions in their pews, homes and hearts. I’m no constitutional scholar but that doesn’t sound very much like liberty to me.
Imagine if a Christian wrote a book saying that gays should only practice their homosexuality in their pews, hearts and homes. Never mind that. Imagine what would happen if a Christian simply wrote a book saying that homosexuality was a sin. Oh yeah, you don’t have to imagine that. All you have to do is read the news. A Christian did write a book saying that homosexuality is a sin. And the mayor of Atlanta fired him.
Somehow I think that former city of Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran would take issue with Frank Bruni’s claim that religious liberty is not under attack.
And an old preacher named John would laugh at Mr. Bruni’s suggestion that one’s faith should only be a private matter.
Much like Chief Cochran, John found himself on, “the wrong side of history” as the progressives like to say. Herod, the ruler at the time, had taken his brother’s wife and made her his own (Mark 6:14-29). John committed the unforgivable crime of saying that it was wrong. A lot of people who are wrong do not like being told that they are wrong. It was true 2000 years ago and it is true today. So John was thrown into jail for being, “on the wrong side of history.” Isn’t it a shame that he didn’t get to enjoy the American privileges of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Well, actually that American fire chief didn’t get to enjoy those privileges either so never mind.
The story doesn’t end with John in jail.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That proved true in this case. Herod’s new wife, Herodias, held a grudge against this intolerant pastor for daring to say that something was wrong. And she waited for her opportunity to act on her grudge. That opportunity would come at one of Herod’s banquets.
Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and the other leading men under his rule. Don’t think of this as your daughter’s dance recital. Well, unless your name is Billy Ray Cyrus and your daughter’s dance recital is at the Grammy’s and it involves licking hammers. That’s more in line with the show that Herod and his leading men enjoyed.
And boy did they enjoy it.
So much so that Herod promised to give the young girl up to half of his kingdom. She went to her mother for advice on the best way to cash in on Herod’s offer. The answer was simple.
John’s head on a platter.
This grieved Herod. He made a foolish vow and it would make him look weak if he didn’t follow through. But he liked John. He liked visiting him in prison to hear what the preacher on the wrong side of history had to say. More than that, Herod feared John.
Herod wasn’t afraid because John had an experienced legal team. It wasn’t because John represented a huge voting block that could cause Herod trouble when the November primaries came around. It was because John was a righteous and holy man.
Christians, we must remember that it is possible to win arguments in ways that are not righteous or holy. We must be willing to lose if winning means sacrificing our righteousness and holiness. Even if losing means having our head on a platter.
Herod kept his promise. Herodias got her wish. John lost his head.
Sometimes I hear Christians talking about this account like it is a blemish on the Christian faith. As if John would still be with us today if he had only kept his mouth shut and been more contextualized. That’s because too many Christians are more concerned with being liked than they are being righteous or holy.
One of many lessons we can learn from John is that when we do God’s will, we should expect opposition. And we don’t have to go out picking fights like the Westboro fools. Simply submit to the lordship of Christ and follow his example, not just in your heart, home and pew, but in the public square and you’re sure to find yourself on, “the wrong side of history.”
Remember, life isn’t a contest where he who finishes with his head attached to his body and the full approval of the LGBT community wins.
But life is a race.
And there is a finish line.
Some of us will reach that line with scars and open wounds because of our allegiance to Christ. Others will get there penniless because they cared more about the Way, the Truth and the Life than they did the mayor, their job and being liked.
And that’s okay.
For those on, “the wrong side of history” because of failure to keep their faith to themselves, there is One seated at the right hand of the Father who has saved us a place at his table once we reach the finish line.
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal, ands signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30 (ESV)