I've heard some disturbing talk about idols lately. Actually, I've been hearing it for some time, but I'm just now calling it out. First of all, my apologies to my non-Reformed readers who may have no idea what all the fuss is about.
Just a brief bit of context...
Over that last ten years as those around me have increasingly turned to the teaching of Tim Keller I have observed a dramatic increase in talk about idols. Modern day idols. While we don't necessarily display wooden sculptures of human-created gods, we are all guilty of substituting the worship of God with things like power, comfort, financial security, etc. I get that.
Photo Cred: Mcgraths
Fun Fact: I've been accused of leading people in idol worship.
Yep. I'm a yoga instructor and I've been accused in writing, in person and behind my back of engaging in movements that may have been used by someone else to worship a Hindu god. (See me here leading my son astray.) This used to make me cry, but now it just wears me out. Trust me, I have idols, but they're much more harmful than headstands and breathing exercises.
But, I digress...that's not the idol talk I'm concerned with.
Over the last year I've sat with a number of hurting young women who have been quick to share with me their idols. They are steeped in this theology and they have a deep desire to please God. In each case I've moved quickly to divert them from that path of thinking. It's not that what they were saying could not have been true, I simply believe it was not helpful in producing the kind of transformation that Jesus desires.
Sometimes discerning, declaring and destroying our idols (a Tim Keller sermon) is exactly what needs to be done. But not everything is an idol and resorting such simple diagnosis shortchanges the process and adds to already embedded shame. Sometimes--many times--we need healing.
These "idols" come out of legitimate desires being met in illegitimate ways. And I'm not convinced that the Apostle Paul would make some of the theological leaps I've seen preached on this topic. Not to mention that as I've sat with Jesus in my own pain he has never once embarked on an idol smashing ceremony. He's never even mentioned the term 'idol'.
What I mean is...
Let me give you an example from my own life. One of my fears for many years has been looking foolish. (Keller notes fear is a key indicator of an idol.) I don't know what idol that is--not attracting negative attention to myself? Its something I've spent much time in prayer (and counseling) about. Technically, it could have been considered an idol. But there was so much more. And Jesus, in his mercy, is helping me learn to trust him when I feel foolish. One of the defining moments of my adult life was when He instructed me to stand up and do some yoga in the middle of a silent retreat. I felt like a complete idiot, but I sensed God inviting me into redemptive foolishness. And it was liberating!
No condemnation. No harsh labels. No oversimplified solutions. Real change.
Yes, idols are real. All I'm saying is, not everything is an idol. Please be careful.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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