Posts Tagged ‘human free will’

MARK 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The degeneration of King Herod as a human being, descending the way of ‘harmless’ fantasies, swelling impulses, a growing disregard for conscience, the fateful decision, maneuvers in self-justification, an attempted cover-up, and finally adding murder to infidelity, presents us with a negative image of our unique capacity among God’s creatures. The tree and the bird each unfolds in its development according to the design and potential of their distinct natures. Their beauty is what we could call an ‘instinctive’ beauty, flowing out through natural tendencies and inherited patterns.

Human beings, in addition to having an instinctive nature, are conspicuous among the animal kingdom for being morally free, which means that our destiny as a species has been given to a great extent into our own hands. We can feel the drive of impulse in our organs and blood, but we can also discern the voice of conscience calling us to acts of fidelity, love, and self-sacrifice.

At some point in the progression of Herod’s guilt – a point that would preferably h come early rather than too late – there was a pause, a hesitation, a second thought. At that precise moment he was free to weigh the moral virtue and predictable consequences of his impending choice. Had he successfully uprooted the fantasy of his attraction to Herodias, or repented of his wrongful act when inwardly or outwardly convicted, he could have elected for a different path altogether. Instead of conspiring in the assassination of one of God’s prophets, Herod could have become an inspiring example of integrity and godly character.