One of the common themes in the criticism of modern Western Christianity is how we’ve become idolatrous. Our society has come right out of the closet, and we now have a whole show and industry around being an American Idol. We even acknowledge that idols may not be that obvious. They could be insubstantial, like time in an activity or hobby. It could be social, like football teams, or golf, or associations. It’s an obvious problem, and, mostly, Christians acknowledge it.
But no one seems to be ready or willing to embrace a solution. One of my favorites among the excuses I’ve heard is that people don’t like to read. In our culture, that may be becoming more true than it was in my formative years. In those days, I read all the time. Now we seem to want headlines, and pictures. Communication is degenerating into memes. We want icons, symbols of things and activities we want or need. And, in the background, the ironic penalty looms over us.
He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.Exodus 22:20 NASB
There are two interesting ironies in this single verse. The first is the reference to “god”, and the second is the penalty itself. The first irony is missed in translation, because the literal Hebrew is “to the gods”. It’s ironic because “the gods” is also a common reference to God, singular. It’s used 366 times in Hebrew, and mostly to refer to God. In fact, in verse 8, it likely refers to God although it is often translated as “judges”.
The second irony is that the penalty for sacrificing is being sacrificed. It’s the “ban”, the complete and utter destruction instructed against God’s most heinous enemies. Everything is destroyed, nothing is left, not family, not possessions, not the house, nothing. It’s a “whole burnt offering”, in a sense.
I live under the second irony daily. As some of you may know from following this blog, I struggle with an addiction. Nothing is quite as idolatrous as an addiction. To choose to act out in my addiction is an act of transgression, a sin of rebellion against my Savior.
But, there is forgiveness. There is room for repentance. Jesus was asked by Peter how many times one should forgive another, and Jesus answered, “A lot”. But, we may forget that this is only true because we are forgiven a lot, by our Savior. That’s hard to remember, and sometimes accept, in the face of a failure.
What I deserve is complete destruction. What I want is life. The question is will I accept the forgiveness of a Savior, or will I persist my rebellion to my own destruction? And it’s not just about me, it’s my family, my friends, and whatever I have contributed to the Kingdom of Jesus that is at risk.
Think of that when you spot the idols in your life. Think of that cost when you consider your next choice, or how you will respond to your own failure. What will you do? Repent? I hope so. I’m working in that now. What are you working on?
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation