My dear friends,
Christianity always stands somewhat apart from the prevailing spirit of any age. It has always done so. As such, it will at least challenge and often flatly contradict the way we think and behave. Frankly, this is exactly why much of society has a dislike for Christianity: even the Church can find it uncomfortable. After all, who likes to be told they are wrong, especially by a religion.
So of all the besetting problems of our own time, where would you rank idolatry? Probably not very high, after all there is stiff competition out there: materialism, selfishness, disbelief. Perhaps we no longer bow down before carved idols, or dance around golden calves, but we have no less taken the decision to construct the God we like best. To quote Voltaire, ‘If God created us in his image, we have more than returned the compliment.’ That is the heart of idolatry - making God in our own image. We are happy with a little orthodox Christian hope at our funerals, but add a dash of spiritualism for the comfort of the bereaved and certainly ignore the troublesome stuff about judgement.
We say God prefers traditional worship, when actually it’s just us who don’t like to change. All sorts of desires, preferences and prejudices affect what choose to hear, and where we choose to remain deaf.
It is nothing new. Whilst Moses was up the mountain receiving the wisdom of God’s commandments, the Israelites were down the hillside making the golden calves; they would no doubt allow them a set of rules far less demanding to live by. When the first Christians were trying to witness about a God of Love to the citizens of the ancient city of Ephesus, they had stiff competition from the temple of Diana; worship there included the services of hundreds of temple prostitutes. This is what happens when people carve and mould their own Gods, they can make them say whatever they please. However, if God is given his own voice he says tough things that are hard to hear and challenging to live out. He says things like ‘love your enemy’, ‘sell all you have and give it to the poor’, ‘take up your cross and follow me’.
And so let me ask you what I must ask myself: How much of my religion is stuff I have chosen to include because it makes me feel good, and how often have I ignored the voice of God because it makes me feel uncomfortable? That, ultimately, is the sin of idolatry, and I reckon our own age suffers from it as badly as any before us.
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