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Different sort of square peg

John the Baptist was quite popular early in his ministry.  But in less than two years, his popularity plunged to near zero.  When Herod’s men executed him, the Jews did not object at all.  They were glad to be rid of him, and Christ demanded to know why (Matt 11:7).

Had they gone out in the desert to see a reed shaken by the wind?  A man in soft clothing? A reed shaken by the wind of public opinion avoids subjects that offend.  Those in soft clothing care too much for comforts to risk conflict.  If John had been more careful to avoid offending sinners, he would have been far more popular.  In fact, the Jews, who were masters of politics, would very likely have found a way to get Herod to release him instead of quietly letting him die.

But if John had done this, he would have been wrong.  The Bible says, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their… sins” (Isaiah 58:1).  This was John’s ministry, his duty, his calling from God.  When John preached against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, it was not because he had some grudge against them; it was simply because hypocrisy is sin.  When John preached against the violence of the Romans, it was not because he disliked any particular Roman soldier; it was simply because the unjust violence of Rome was sin.  And when John preached against sexual immorality, it was not because John harbored personal animosity against Herod; it was simply because fornication is sin.

Modern pulpits have too many men who lean delicately with every wind of public opinion and soft preachers without the guts to fight for what is right.  And these people have always been popular with sinners.  But God calls them false prophets and threatens such men with hell fire.  It is true; John the Baptist did not win all his battles.  Herod’s wife had John murdered for preaching against her sexual immorality.  But John the Baptist won the approval of God.  May John’s gallant stand for righteousness stir every Christian to a greater sense of faithfulness and duty in the gathering darkness of these last days.

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