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And Herod solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” – Mark 6:23

When was the last time you told someone, “No, I can’t help you with that or I have a different opinion?” It can feel like a bit of a risk to set boundaries or to give our real opinions, especially, when we know they are different from others.

It’s normal, of course, to want to be liked and accepted, but for some of us the need to please is so strong that we’ll make choices that go against, who we are and whose we are, in order to be accepted.

Our need to please is actually more of a need to belong and a fear of being rejected. Most of us want to belong and develop lasting relationships and we find it painful to be unaccepted or criticized by others. We fear that being alone means losing control, power, and connection. So, we go to extreme lengths to please others to avoid that.

I was taught that it’s important to care about others and to be polite and you probably were, too. What’s wrong with that? Well, the short answer is nothing, but like most things if we overdo it, it can get us in trouble, and we can end up hurting others instead of helping.

In our Gospel reading this Sunday, Herod could have made a different choice, but fear of losing power and prestige had replaced God in his life. Though he loved to listen to John the Baptist, he would not risk his reputation and the respect of the people in order to spare John’s life.

We are always in danger of making choices that undermine our faith. A little compromise here, a little laziness there, and suddenly we wake up in a place that is far from a faithful, committed follower of Jesus. Our lives are filled with choices. Herod chose loyalty to his kingdom and the power it gave him.

Through the waters of baptism, we are called Child of God, we belong and that cannot be taken away, no matter our choices. Jesus says you belong but also calls us to speak the truth no matter the cost, to work at bringing justice for all, and to live lives of compassion and concern for those in need. Jesus calls us to take a risk and speak up, even when it might not please everyone. May we know that we always belong, and that God is with us through the work of the Holy Spirit as we work to reflect Christ in our lives in our message and action. Amen.