An interesting juxtaposition of readings in the lectionary today. Hebrews is a final exhortation as the letter comes to a conclusion, urging the reader to continue to act in love toward strangers, those in trouble, and to keep love alive in marriage, making it sacred. Finally, you can do all these things because God is always with you and will never let you down. It is because of this truly loving relationship between you and the Lord that you are able to live this way. In the past, I have told my morality class that it is almost impossible to live in the manner Hebrews calls for without the love of the Lord in your life. When we move over to Mark and the story of Herod beheading John, Herod proves my point. Here is this king who was fearful, indecisive, jealous, selfish, adulterous, given to making a stupid oath based on aroused passion and then, because of his pride, found himself forced to execute someone who he actually kind of liked.
In my corner of the world, we will sometimes hear stories of violence in homes involving either estranged parents, or a single mom, boyfriend, child out of wedlock, and a parent of the mom. They are called crimes of passion. I cannot say for sure, but I suspect the same fault of Herod may be at the heart of these actions. The complete dependence on self, the lack of a loving relationship with the God who made us and loves us. I use these situations as examples, without passing judgment, because God knows we've all gone there to some degree or another more than a few times in our lives. Simply put, Hebrews is telling us we cannot truly love without God and Mark shows us Herod proving the point.