When the names of the dead were released, his was the first to be listed. A three-year-old boy, Mucad Ibrahim, murdered in a terrorist attack in Christchurch because he was considered a threat. His four-year-old friend, Abdullahi, was also fatally wounded. The spirit of King Herod lives on.
Herod, the quasi-king we read about in Matthew 2, was not a pleasant character. He was committed to no one but himself and his chief goal was staying in power. In the course of his reign, he had three of his own sons put to death just in case they had any ideas of overthrowing their father. Numerous court officials and his wife, Mariamme, also met an early end. It is not surprising that when Magi from the east came looking for the one “who has been born king of the Jews” that Herod would order the massacre of children. They were a threat to his power and position.
Fear does strange things to people. Fear of losing status, position, title or sense of power is doing strange things – evil things – to people in our world today. Horrible sins are committed in the name of protecting one group against another. Make no mistake: the same spirit that inspired Herod to kill the children of Bethlehem unleashed bullets on children and other innocents in Christchurch – pure evil.
The world around us is changing. The dynamics between nations, ethnicities and religious groups are shifting. Globalization has brought us into closer contact with one another. Groups with entirely different histories and cultures now often live side by side. Our desire should be to live in peace with our neighbours, locally and globally.
Some people fear they will lose their cultural or political power. Others fear that their religious beliefs are under attack because of the practice of other faiths. Suspicions abound between people of different colours and language because it is easier to make assumptions about a whole group of people than to spend time learning about their story. Our lazy society prefers a simple narrative and group people as either good or bad, friend or foe. There is no space for a more nuanced story.
Followers of Jesus are called to a higher standard than this. We are called to follow the one who died for his enemies and laid down his life for people who didn’t deserve it. Jesus refused to allow people to be reduced to a label and judged by association.
It’s unlikely any of us will ever commit an act of terrorism like we saw last week. However, such events begin with the words that come out of our mouth and the sentences written at our keyboards. And what comes out of our mouth proceeds from the heart. So guard your heart. Place a guard over your lips. Our fleshly impulses, the fear of change or losing our place, are dangerous in ways we cannot see. We follow the crucified and resurrected Saviour because he offers a new way out of the violence. Let us heed that call to discipleship.