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Channeling Your Inner Herodian

From Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way (2007). Sound like anyone you know today?

judeagreat“I would have been impressed with Herod [the Great] if I had lived in the first century. Herod was the biggest name in Palestine. He was the richest man in the world. He employed more people than anyone in the country. You couldn’t walk out of your house without hearing the name Herod. You couldn’t walk down any road without coming on one of his massive building operations. Herod, Herod, Herod.

“It is impossible, at least for me, not to be impressed with Herod … Politically he was able to manipulate power-hungry Rome … He was not a religious man, but he turned out to be a relentlessly aggressive propagandist…, using it as a means to political power … His building projects were absolutely stunning.

“Herod had done the ‘kingdom’ thing magnificently: his skilled brokering of power, his use of Greek theater and athletic contests to shape people’s thinking and values, his architectural splendor giving everyone a sense that their king was all-powerful and majestic. He had gathered a very diverse population of Jews and Romans, pagans and Greeks, feuding sects and uncongenial political parties, and hammered out a kind of working unity among them … Herod was not interested in God, but everything else was intact.”

Herod. Making Judea Great Again.

herodiansEven in the days of the Herods, the faith community was divided over their feelings about the powerful political family. One group was known as the Herodians, a small clique of avowed partisans of the Herodian dynasty. As godless, manipulative and culturally polluted as the Herods were, Herodians still saw this brand of rule as necessary for the prosperity of the region.

The Pharisees did not see it this way. They thought it spiritual compromise to advocate for the Herods.

Interesting … Pharisees and Herodians have two things in common, and one huge difference. In common: They both attacked Jesus, and tried to bring him down. And Jesus never directly addressed their politics. The difference: Jesus had far more negative things to say to the Pharisees than the Herodians.

What about you? Are you inclined to unite yourself to a political entity, as troubling as it may be, because it beats the alternative? Or do you find such an alliance as a compromise to your spiritual convictions? Any chance you would have a HEROD NOW sign in your front yard, or sticker on your car?

It’s an historical maxim that bad leaders only get worse with age. Take Herod the Great:

“During the last years of his life his proclivities to cruelty accelerated. He became a virtual monster, hated by everyone, massacring at whim. The famous quip from Caesar Augustus back in Rome, a close personal friend of Herod’s, would have served as an apt epitaph over his grave: ‘I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.'”

As Peterson points out, “Jesus lived as if Herod had never existed. Jesus ignored the world of power and accomplishment that was brilliantly on display all around him. He chose to work on the margins of society, with unimportant people, giving particular attention to the weak, the disturbed, the powerless.”

– EO

 

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in 21st Century, Politics

 

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Tenth Day of Christmastide ’14

Number 10 fence

Christmas … and politics? Do we have to?

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but alsofor the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.” (Romans 13:1-7)

The first Christmas was more politically charged than ours is today. The Jewish people, with their long, proud heritage of freedom fighting and military rebellion, were under Roman occupation. The ongoing hope was for the promised Messiah to come, who would lead them to their political emancipation.

magiherodThe birth story itself is soaked with politics. The very reason Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem was because of the Empire-wide taxation program (you think signing up online for Obamacare is tough duty – try a 50+ mile donkey ride during your 9th month of pregnancy!). Jesus spent some of his childhood in the hated next-door-nation of Egypt because the local ruler felt threatened by religious prophecies. Then, Jesus grew up in Galilee, which was predominantly Hellenistic, unlike the conservatives in Judah, who would find the simple-minded “liberals” from down the hill to be at best pitiful, at worst repulsive.

It was impossible to keep from being embroiled in politics in first century Palestine.

globes ornamentsThis is good for us to hear today. Jesus came into a political situation, and lived a politically-aware life. And the incarnate one gave specific guidance for living out this reality. Be good citizens. Pay your taxes faithfully is you the payer … and if you’re the payee, please collect only what is properly due. And here, Paul echoes these counter-revolutionary ideas: Subjection. Do what is good. Have appropriate fear of the magistrate. But even more than that, it’s attitude! Respect and honor!

Merry Christmas! God has come, and has made it very clear: Life in light of Christmas leaves us inescapably in the politics of our lands … where we, like Him, will be blessed to live honorably. This is a gift of God! For it is “for your good.”

 
 

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