I used to hate writing seminary papers. Don’t get me wrong—I love writing—but the strict formatting requirements imposed by academic institutions took the joy out of it for me. However, once I discovered an online template with all the formatting pre-set, my love of writing returned. I can now download the template and focus on the part I truly enjoy.
The Bible is full of templates—patterns to follow in the living of one’s life. The Christmas story offers at least two of them. Matthew 2:16 presents the template of Herod. Herod was the puppet king of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. After learning that wise men from the east were coming to worship the newly born baby, he grew paranoid. He interpreted word of a new king being born as a personal threat to his own sovereignty and control. To ensure that the threat was eliminated, he ordered the slaughter of all the babies in Jesus’ hometown of Bethlehem.
You may be tempted here to place Herod in his own extreme category, but I believe that would be a mistake. The template of Herod has been around for a long time—Pharaoh in Moses’ day followed it—and it’s thriving today as well.
Several weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard “Dobbs”—a case that may finally overturn “Roe v. Wade” and send abortion law back to states. While a decision is not expected until next summer, the outrage from abortion advocates has ramped up. The most recent argument for abortion goes something like this: If an unborn child interferes with a mother’s desires being fulfilled, then that mother has the right to eliminate that unborn child. Sound familiar?
The template of Herod argues that anything that gets in the way of my will being done must be eliminated. It’s an ancient way of life predicated on a false anthropology that exalts human beings to the level of gods and goddesses and demands a life free of limitation and restraint.
When discussing such a lifestyle, we are tempted to point fingers and relegate it solely to those people over there, but James understood that the template of Herod is a temptation even for people in the church. He wrote, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2).
We are following the template of Herod anytime we view human beings as an obstacle in the way of our desires. The template of Herod is being followed when a spouse disregards the vows made before God and chases the momentary fling. It’s Herod’s template that drives a person to reject a lifelong friend because advice was given that interfered with a desired path. When dad lashes out at the kids after work because he was dreaming about a relaxing evening in front of the TV—that’s Herod’s template. 41 million babies aborted worldwide so far this year points to the popularity of Herod’s template.
Whenever your highest aim in life becomes the fulfillment of some desire, people who get in the way of that desire’s fulfillment will be viewed as disposable, and you will seek to eliminate them. It may not rise to the level of murder, but Jesus taught us we murder people in our hearts all the time (Matthew 5:21-22).
Christmas offers us a better template. Jesus, the true King of the universe, came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He taught us to pray, “Not my will, but your will be done.” The template of Christ is a template that teaches us to embrace our human limitations as we depend on One who greater than us. It’s a template of submitting our desires to one who is stronger, wiser, and better.
Ultimately, the template of Jesus is a template of love. Jesus teaches us to always put people before desire. What we want must always take a backseat to serving the person in front of us. The baby in the womb isn’t an obstacle in the way of fulfilling all of one’s dreams; he or she is worthy of love and sacrifice. No person is an obstacle. This Christmas, let’s follow the template of Christ. Let’s love the people we encounter.