Flannery O’Connor wrote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” It was odd for Herod to keep John the Baptist alive after John’s repeated condemnation of Herod’s marriage to his sister-in-law. It was odder still for Herod to keep listening to the wild-haired prophet as he continued to threaten Herod’s legitimacy and undermine his power. The text tells us that Herod was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him (v. 20). Herod must have known that the longer he kept John around, the more he risked losing, but he also must have somehow sensed God’s truth in John’s words.
These days we have little patience and quite a bit of hostility toward perspectives that differ from our own. Our confirmation bias tells us that we already know the truth. We listen not to actually hear our conversation partners, but to decide how to best tell them they’re wrong. If this is true for our abstract political conversations, how much truer is it when it comes to our personal lives?
What would happen if we let the fact that Herod keeps listening to John become our invitation to pay attention to those ideas and people who perplex, challenge, and threaten us? Could there be something of God’s truth within them that we need to hear, even if it costs us something? Believing this is possible might make us odd, but it also might get us a little closer to the truth.
What perplexes you? What can you learn from that?
Spirit of Truth, give me what Brené Brown calls a “soft front and a strong back,” firm in my convictions, but open to the truth others may have to offer. Amen.