Herodias wanted John the Baptist’s head on a platter. She was an angry woman spurred on by the cancer of bitterness that permeated her entire being. The NIV says she “nursed a grudge.” She was not only offended by John’s confrontation of her sin, but she invested time and energy into nursing her wound and allowing her grudge to grow and metastasize. Which ultimately ended in a head, literally, on a platter.
Bitterness is unbecoming. It is ugliness personified.
I’m going to speculate that each one of us has been either confronted by the truth and didn’t like it very much, and found our feelings for our confronter to be less than warm, or we’ve been hurt deeply by someone, knowingly or unknowingly, and the pain of that wound has transformed into anger and mistrust.
Being confronted with a sin in our lives is uncomfortable, at best. None of us wants to hear the truth from someone we love and respect, or hear a sermon that pinches just a little too hard. It’s downright painful. Even so, the bitterness that stems from this pain is wasted. Seriously. Confess your sins and God is faithful to forgive. Then move on. It is pride that makes us hold on to our grudge for dear life.
On the other hand, being hurt by someone is not the same thing. Whether or not the blow was intentional, pain is pain, and it’s very difficult to simply forgive and get over it. Bitterness is almost understandable. However, it is still bitterness, and left unresolved, leads to death. A nursed grudge over time becomes anger. And anger leads us to do things we would never fathom doing in our right mind.
Herodias wanted to kill John the Baptist, but she couldn’t, at least not yet. Eventually she found a way. She not only succeeded in killing John, but she brought her daughter into her bitterness too.
When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” and he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” ”The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.
The Message translation describes Herodias as a woman “smoldering with hate.” When I read this passage I was immediately convicted of the petty grievances I have held on to. We are so easily offended, are we not? We blindly get caught up in our offenses that we forget how to work things out with each other (Matthew 18:15-20). Whether or not our pain is justified, bitterness never is. It always lands back in our own laps. I’ve been hurt, rightly or wrongly, so what am I going to do with this? Am I going to allow bitterness to fester inside, and eventually spill out onto my children? Am I willing to let the light within me die out?
God is aware of our pain. He isn’t demanding something from us that he hasn’t already experienced. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He forgave us so that we would know how to forgive others. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to end up like Herodias. I don’t want my legacy to say, “Amy went down smoldering with hate.” I want to be a beautiful testimony of grace and forgiveness, love and compassion. I can’t be that and hold a grudge at the same time.
And what about you? Have you been confronted lately and you would like nothing more than to see a head on a platter? Or have you been hurt by someone, and all you want is to see them suffer the way you feel you have suffered? Either way, bitterness does not become you. Don’t nurse the grudge. Do something productive with your pain. Confess your sin, if you have sinned, and get on with your life. Or confront that person who has hurt you, seek out reconciliation and get on with your life.
Don’t hold on to your grudge…hold on to freedom.