John the Baptist was a lot of things: Jesus’ cousin, preacher, a devotee of unusual clothing (camel hair) and cuisine (locusts and honey) and a strong and courageous voice of truth without regard for personal gain or loss. What we learn from this episode in John’s life is that he was willing to risk his reputation and even his life to be used by God. Sometimes we can wrongly assume that if we do what is right, God is bound to make our life easier and better. While there are plenty of times where He will, there are also those situations where He wants us to stand up for Him and the cost is high…very high. In John’s case, He had clearly expressed the truth to Herod about his adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. Another fact is that Herod arrested John hoping to silence him, but didn’t execute him out of fear – probably fear that the popular John being killed would spark a riot among the masses who revered him. Herod’s wife didn’t care about public backlash, she hated John, wanted him gone and made it happen.
When you read about John the Baptist, it is clear that he wasn’t naive but understood human nature well (see Matthew 3:7). We also see that John’s number one allegiance was to His heavenly father and the responsibility God had entrusted to him. John’s role as a prophet meant he had a public role to play. All of us have spheres of influence where God wants us to use our examples and words to communicate truth and grace, even if it costs us. We see in John’s life that he was known as a truly righteous man (Matthew 6:20) and that is where you and I need to start. As we live our lives to please and honor God, we can be certain that He will use us to have an impact. Our lives need to reflect the message or we will merely be seen as hypocrites. Even if we suffer in the process, we will not suffer alone or in vain because God is with us, for us and will carry us!