So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison (Luke 3:18-20).
In the passage above, the issue is sex. We are not given much detail here, but we are in Matthew 14 and Mark 6, where we read that John the Baptist rebuked Herod for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife. But men will do what men will do, especially when they have power, and especially when it regards sex. Herod married Herodias, and put John in prison for telling him what he did not want to hear.
Our culture has made up its mind about sex, and has the power of government to enforce it. Contraception is not only a non-issue culturally, but the government insists upon taxpayers providing it to all who want it. Same-sex relationships can now be given the status of marriage, and, as we are already seeing, there will be consequences for those who refuse to go along. Sexual promiscuity has long enjoyed support. The Supreme Court itself admitted that, despite the unacceptable legal reasoning of Roe v. Wade, abortion on demand must be permitted so that people can persist in sexual license.* And all of the above is taught as normal and healthy in the public schools.
Sex is not the only arena, but it is certainly one arena where the church, if she is faithful, will be a sign of contradiction in our culture. This does not mean that the church must be judgmental. Far be it, for the church bears the message of the good news of the grace of God in Christ to sinners. But by her very nature the church is a judgment. And she must be clear. Just like John the Baptist, the church preaches good news, even as that proclamation of good news is a call to repentance. The faithfulness of the church is most evident in her faithfulness to stand as a sign of contradiction in the world, even as she suffers from so doing. For Herod still hears only what he wants to hear, and he will punish the one who dares to speak otherwise.
* In the words of the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “[t]he Roe rule’s limitation on state power could not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”