I've been reading through the book of Mark and over the last few days I've been reading and re-reading chapter 6 specifically.
Side note: This is a great way to really study Scripture. Studying Scripture is about more than just reading it. Read, re-read and then read it again. Allow different words, phrases and portions to jump out to. You'll discover something new and different every time you read it. End side note.
Tonight I was reading it agian and came to verses 17-20. It says, "For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him."
While I had read that passage numerous times in the past, tonight I was struck by two sentences, "John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” and "Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him."
That's crazy right? John is telling Herod that the way he was living his life was wrong. John was telling Herod that marrying his brother's wife was wrong. This was no small point of contention. This wasn't, "Hey, I would have chosen a different color for the carpet." This wasn't, "I don't know if I agree with your stance on investments." This was a flat out rebuke of the way Herod was living his life. And yet, the Scripture says that even though Herod was disturbed when he talked to John, "he liked to listen to him."
There was something about the way that John spoke that didn't cause Herod to hate him. There was something about their relationship that caused Herod, even though he was gretly disturbed, to still have some level of affection for John.
Here's the thought that stuck me and frankly made me cringe a little: "Do people like to listen to me even when I have to say things they don't like?" Often when we speak to people, especially in contentious situations, we strive to prove our point, we strive to get the upper hand, we strive first to be understood before we strive to understand. We assume that everyone thinks like we do. We assume that everyone was brought up the way we were brought up. We assume that everyone understands the truth of the Gospel at the level we understand it.
Sometimes we shy away from tough conversations in an effort to perserve relationships. While that may be an option, what if God was calling us to more? What if in reality we only did that because we didn't want to do the hardwork of becoming like Jesus even in the midst of tough converations?
It's hardwork to say hard things and still be like Jesus. Relationships don't supercede ministry. Sometimes the tough stuff has to be said and those hearing it won't like it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be said. Relationships do precede ministry though. There is a huge difference in those statements. Make the commitment to do the hardwork to become like Jesus even when you have to challenge people.
As you think through those relationships you've been avoiding because you haven't been able to "maintain Jesus" remember John's example. Make it your goal to "disturb" and "be liked".