A while back I read an article titled something like The Top Three Idols In The Christian Church (but I can’t find it to link to it or quote it). Anyway, the idols discussed in the article were theological differences. Wait. What? Your beliefs are different than mine, therefore they are an idol to you. Personally, hearing like that, it sounded the other way around! So I thought I’d take a stab at writing it from my point of view…
What is an idol?
A quick Google search offered this definition for the word idol: an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. Christians should have idols. According to scripture, we have God living on the inside of us – why on earth would we need a physical representation of Him to pray to or bow down to? Anyway, before I get too far ahead of myself, here are my top five Christian Idols:
1. The (Church) Building
The church, as many know it, is a building made of wood and nails, usually covered in bricks and mortar. Often adorned with steeples and crosses. Many more traditional churches have a bell tower or sorts and the really churchy ones have a pipe organ.
Our church meets in one of those buildings. I’m not anti-traditional-church-building. But I’ve been to church in a house, in a city park building, even in a converted machine shed on a farm. I’ve had church in a car, and in a coffee shop. I’ve spoken the Gospel to a broken man inside a bar. The building is insignificant in the Kingdom!
Yet, sadly, we see churches split when the outgrow the building they’re meeting in. Isn’t that sick? The building, which some (apparently) attribute to the churches growth, ironically, ends up tearing it apart when the building can’t withstand the numbers of people seeking what’s happening inside the walls. The building we’re meeting in now was empty when we found it because of that very thing happening there!
The building doesn’t matter! What matters is what happens inside the walls. We go to church (the gathering of saints) to serve each other, to be equipped for our ministries, not to be in awe of how pretty the building is. There’s even a movement now of people refusing to attend church in a traditional church building – the building is still your idol too.
2. The Cross/Crucifix
The Cross is immensely important in Christian theology. Don’t get me wrong. The Cross of Christ (the tool of His torture and execution) has been the symbol of Christianity (along with the ichthus (aka Jesus fish)) for centuries! But that symbol is not something to be held equal to God. It is not okay to bow down to a Crucifix. It is not good to talk to it like it actually is God.
I have a cross I wear from time-to-time, but not religiously. We have a few in our home, my wife has one hanging from her rear-view mirror. Having them is not essential to our faith – the are a reminder of what was done for us nearly two-thousand years ago, and that’s all they are! People freak out if a church is not covered inside and out with crosses. I love what Pastor Perry Nobel once said in response to someone saying they didn’t have enough crosses inside his church: “I carry my cross, man!”
Listen, I don’t have to wear a cross, have a cross bumper sticker, or have a single cross in my home to be a Christian. It is a symbol of who I am and what I believe. Period.
3. The Pastor
Another source of church break-ups is the pastor. We put our shepherd (literal translation) on a pedestal and leave him (or her) high and dry when he doesn’t stay in the box we put him in. We can’t sit still long enough to let him teach us something different than what we’ve been told all our lives. We can’t bear to hear he’s not perfect outside of the church building. We can’t even treat him like a guy when we see him at the mall – we go into our whole “man of God” bit in a pathetic attempt to suck-up to him (but we call it showing him honor).
People refuse to pray for themselves, but beg the pastor to do it for them. They refuse to read their Bible, but want the pastor to teach them what it means. We want the pastor to tell us about Christianity, but to stay out of our lives. We want to put him on a shelf, take him down when we need him, shake him like a Magic Eight Ball until we get the answer we want, then put him back until next Sunday. If he doesn’t give us the answers we want, we throw him away and get a new one.
4. The Bible
The Bible is a book. Yes, it is filled with the inspired teachings of Judaism and Christianity (which are far too often entwined), but it, in itself, is just a book. We revere it more than what it holds, not for what it holds (mostly because we don’t read it enough to know what it says).
I’m a student of the Bible and of Jesus, so the contents of the Bible is very important to me. I have stacks of Bibles and even more books on theology and Christianity and life and philosophy and leadership and, and, and… But none of them are even close to my relationship with God – nothing means more to me than that!
So many people are swayed by the words of a preacher that has taken a tangent from the true meaning of the scriptures because they don’t read it for themselves! This is how cults are born, this is how theologies are twisted, this is how we can say slavery and sex-trade is alright. We don’t have it in our hearts. We don’t read it, we don’t know it, we don’t feel it.
You can burn my Bible, all my books, and delete every Christian site from the Internet, but you’ll never take my true Teacher from me or all that I have learned from Him.
5. The Law
Can I just say that the Law (of Moses) was part of a covenant with the Jews (the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham). God had a covenant with His “chosen people” and within that covenant it was laid out that there would be a Law to follow: when you keep the Law, your are bless, when you break the Law (sin) you are cursed.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not Jewish. My ancestors were not Jewish. Even if I was, I was not alive prior to Jesus’ death on the cross in AD 30 or the destruction of the temple in AD 70. (The New Covenant (of Christ) was set in place in AD 30, the Old Covenant (of Moses/the Jews) was ended then, but allowed to continue until AD 70.)
We have a term, in Christianity, that we use to describe a preacher that had an affair – “He fell from grace.” That’s not what that actually means. In Galatians (the one place that phrase is found), the Apostle Paul tells us that one falls from grace when he (or she) puts himself under the Law. The Law is not for Christians. Jesus gave His followers one new commandment: love each other. It is the Royal Law, the One Commandment of the New Covenant.
Sin is given a new meaning under the New Covenant, it’s no longer a transgression of Moses’ Law, but to act in a manner that is unloving of another, to put yourself before them. (This is purely my extrapolation/revelation.)
The biggest problem the Jews had was that Law became an appeasement, and it was their only focus. They didn’t think about God or His Heart. They didn’t seek His Face. They sought to keep the Law – day in and day out. The Law became their God. They didn’t want to be cursed, so they kept the Law. This is not Christianity!
Put nothing in the place of God. Let nothing draw your admiration from Him. Put your relationship with Him above all else. Don’t let Christianity (or what we have come to know Christianity as) distract you from pursuing God, His Heart, His Kingdom.
Go to a church, but don’t revere the building. Have a cross, but don’t worship it. Follow a pastor, but don’t put him on a pedestal. Read a Bible, but don’t allow it to be more important than what’s inside of it. Follow the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses.