Monday, July 26, 2010

Christian Idolaters? Never!

Most people who claim to be Christian would be offended if it were suggested that they had some idols in their lives, and yet, it is clear by the responses when challenged on some matters that the truth of the matter is that many Christians DO have idols.

Idolatry is focusing our attention and affection on someTHING, or someONE, less significant and important than Almighty God, as He is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Creating difficulty for us in identifying idols is the fact that, probably the majority of our idols are things, or people, who, in itself or themselves, are good. They become idols in our lives simply because we hold them to a higher degree of order than we hold the Lord Jesus Christ.

More often than not we are unaware that we do so, but in our lack of awareness, we allow, or cause these other things to take the place of Jesus Christ, and to give significance to our lives.

It’s half a century since I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, almost the whole of that time fully involved in some ministry in traditional evangelicalism. It was only during the last twenty years, or so, of that time that I began to really see the idolatry, which has become so common, that it is regarded as the "normal Christianity” of which I was a part. I would never have admitted it at the time, but I came to see my own practice of this idolatry.

The idolizing of so-called church “offices”, such as bishop, priest, minister, pastor, deacon, is common amongst those who seek to attain such “high positions”. Congregations idolize those who bear such “official” titles, without being aware that they have elevated them above the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. Many people follow a leader around, as he/she changes location. I’ve known some who left employment, uprooted families, so they could sit in the new congregation, and listen to their idol.

The functions of what is commonly understood as church, such as “attending services” and “meetings”, “going to worship”, are often held in higher esteem than Jesus, as they take first place over personal responsibilities to minister to family, friends and neighbors. A pastor severely chastised a member of a congregation because they had arrived at the church as the service ended. They had attended to a road accident, and, by the time they were satisfied the victims were safe and attended to by ambulance, had stayed with them. The pastor expected they should have placed attendance before ministry.

The bound, printed pages of the Bible is idolized as a holy icon that, no matter how torn and worn, can never be thrown into the garbage bin. A relation of mine has a thigh high stack of tattered Bibles from years of family use. I was asked what ought to be done with them. My suggestion to put them in the bin met with a shocked, “Throw God’s word into the bin?”

Bricks and mortar, timber and iron, shaped into meeting halls, are idolized, as they are entered into, by people speaking in hushed tones, and the sound of laughter and joy echoing of the walls is regarded as sacrilegious.

I recently read that John Calvin once said, “Our hearts are idol making factories”, which turns out to be fact as many Christians idolize their theological position, willing to destroy fellowship with any Christian who has a different viewpoint. Denominational preferences are idolized as the familial relationship every believer has with Christ Jesus is held to ransom.

The idolizing of ones self is so very evident as self appointed spiritual police point out the sins and vagaries of another believer, with no desire to “restore such a one in a spirit of humility",lest they too, in the very act, are tempted. They do so without ever recognizing that, in the act of pointing, they have three fingers pointing to themselves.

Oh! I forgot! We only point out another’s sin because we love them! Don't we?

Pull the other leg. It might yodel!