Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon titled simply “John & Herod “. (Sorry – no link. Geoff told me how, but I don’t have the patience to mess with it quite yet.) In it, Spurgeon teases out an aspect of the biblical story that I had never considered. Specifically, in looking at King Herod’s life up to the point of John’s murder, he had been a pretty good guy. After all, he feared (i.e. respected) John. He listened to what John had to say. And against all Roman wisdom, he kept John alive even after John publicly berated the King. As Spurgeon constantly refrained “So far, so good”.
Biblical history, of course, is not too kind to King Herod after this point. He does murder John. He mocks Jesus. And although I don’t have a Biblical commentary handy, I’m pretty sure he later gets eaten alive by worms. A rather grotesque ending for a “pretty decent guy”.
And that’s the point. Or at least that’s Spurgeon’s point. Herod hadn’t made a firm commitment to follow what John taught, let alone to follow John’s Savior, and so the path from ambivalence to tyranny was a short one at best.
The danger, of course, is that ambivalence can seem so harmless. After all, “live and let live” is a pretty common refrain. And sometimes we think that being “a pretty decent guy” (or gal) is good enough.
Good enough usually isn’t. In this case, it wasn’t even close.