The Leaven of Herod
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.  Mark 8:15

In this verse Jesus was warning his disciples of a two-fold danger to the body of Christ that he knew would eventually become a snare and would lead to bondage and idolatry.  These days Christians of almost every stripe are wary of the leaven of the Pharisees.  There is a common understanding, a correct one I believe, that Jesus was pointing to legalistic and externalized forms of religiosity. Many Christians who consider themselves mature in their spiritual development have learned to recognize religious spirits and to discern false, man-made doctrines and teachings.  Kingdom revelation abounds.

What doesn’t abound and, in fact, what is rarely mentioned, taught or preached about is an understanding of the second caution: beware of the leaven of Herod.  Very interesting.  What is it and why is it a danger?

The answer to both questions is in the definition of Herod and in who he was.  Herod was a political leader during the days of the ministry of Jesus.  The name in Greek is Herodes and means “heroic”.  In his entire ministry, Jesus has only two very short teachings to his disciples on the subject of politics and they were both admonitions.  This is one of them and the other is the famous “render unto Caesar” teaching.

His admonition against mixing our spirituality with worldly political agendas really goes to the heart of what it means to be born again or born from above.  When our source of life, our thoughts and our very identity comes from the heavenly realm, there should be no room in our minds and in our emotions for the beggarly element of politics.  Jesus knew that human political ideology had the power to divide His Body and to draw us into the realm of carnal identification with class, race, ethnicity, nationality and tribe that would undermine our unity in Christ and compromise our witness to a lost world.  Moreover, all too often politics appeals to the ugliest human emotions: fear and hatred of those who are different, both of which call into question our love for others and our faith.

Regarding this undermined faith, I find it disturbing that so many Christians turn to a political agenda and seek worldly political power in the effort to advance some notion of restoring Godliness to our country.  In my view, both the means and the motive are unbiblical.  While Jesus mentions politics obliquely two times as warnings not to get entangled in that realm, Paul mentions it once with an exhortation for us to obey and pray for our leaders.  Understand that both Jesus and Paul lived in a Roman empire that was every bit as degenerate (if not more so) as our modern society.  What disturbs and amazes me is that a supposedly born again, spirit filled Christian who recognizes and acknowledges that the source of his joy, his peace and his love is his relationship with Jesus Christ would offer up any other solution for the problems of others and the problems of society as a whole.  Where is the recognition that the only real solution to every social problem is salvation and becoming a new creation?  Do we place such a low value on our relationship with God?  Or do we lack the faith that God is able, on a massive scale, to change so many lives that society itself changes?  Legislation does not change hearts.

Jesus was looking to the future of His Church and seeing the danger that the new creation man would be pulled back into fear and unbelief through an obsession with and reliance on politics.  He was seeing the division that would be created in His Body along racial lines.  But the greatest danger He was seeing is the development of idolatry or hero worship in the hearts of his people (remember the definition of Herod?).

A few months ago, I saw a photograph taken at a Trump rally.  One of the supporters in the picture was holding a sign that read: “Trump is our Savior”.  Beloved, no politician is our savior.  No political party is the agent of God.  No political agenda or program will convert hearts or radically change lives.

The Word of God declares that judgement begins in the house of God.  Could it be that the changes we, as Christians, all long to see in society won’t happen until we allow the judgement process to cleanse us of everything that is unlike God including all forms of idolatry?  When that truly happens, the Sons of God will set the groaning creation free through love – not politics.