In today’s reading, the final throes of the life of Herod are told in rather gruesome and some would say gleeful detail. As an encouragement to the persecuted Church in the first centuries of Christianity, stories like this, clearly laying out the supremacy and victory of God, must have been a great source of strength. It is easy to be jaded and cynical in the protected Western world as to how important the continued reminders of the supremacy of God are a matter of life and death to some, giving the courage to carry on when the pressure is on.
That said, there is another uncomfortable sense of “might is right” in these verses, a sense which has so pervaded the readings this week. It is not the might of man, but the might of God which is championed here. The problem though, is when we as people take the view that because “our God is greater” as the popular contemporary song goes, we are greater too, or we can subvert others to our will. This can work in all facets of life; in the family, the work place, in a Church, in politics local, national and international, theologically and everywhere else. Until we realise that we are no greater, and no lesser, than any other people or people group, we will never be able to ascribe any kind of glory to God, or love to Him, or to others.
For me these verses are a call to check ourselves. Do we secretly crave the moments of recognition and glory, or do we have integrity in placing the glory of God and the love of others before all other aims? I’m not even sure that Luke, writing Acts, could say for sure what his motives were, and neither can we much of the time. Let’s ask God to give us courage to take the path of humility and grace today.