Monthly Messages from Sally Weiesnbach, Ark Founder & Director of Operations
This year we’re looking at how loving one another as Jesus loves us helps us meet all the commandments of the Law of Moses and of Jesus, the Fulfillment of the Law.
This month, it’s commandment two: Exodus 20:4–6 (CSB) “Do not make an idol for yourself… Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences… [on]those who hate me, but showing faithful love to… those who love me and keep my commands.” A week into Lent, many Christians are fasting meals or giving up luxuries to honor Jesus’ sacrifices during his 40 days of temptation in the desert. How can Lent and Jesus’ commandment to love each other help us avoid idols?
Idolatry means worshiping a physical object as if it were a god. The practice has been around since before biblical times. In the Bible, idolatry is described as sin and a form of spiritual adultery because it is an act of worshiping something other than God.
In biblical times, idolatry was widespread. In some cases leaders encouraged it. Even the Jews, known for their strict adherence to the Law (the 10 Commandments), were lured by idolatry. The Old Testament is full of warnings and stories of individuals and tribes that strayed from God and instead worshipped foreign gods. (Exodus (above), Leviticus 19:4, Judges 10:14, Psalm 16:4 and 115:4–8, Isaiah 44:9–2 and 45:20, Jonah 2:8–9 to name a few.)
Today, idolatry is still a problem, although it may look different. Instead of worshiping carved idols, amulets, and golden calves, people may instead worship wealth, fame, power, and status. Or they may worship other people — pop stars, athletes, business, or religious leaders, even spouses and loved ones.
These are all objects and individuals that people seek to possess, honor, and idolize so much that they forget about God. That can lead to serious spiritual damage in their lives.
One person managed to avoid idolatry: Jesus. Despite his miracles and teachings, Jesus never allowed himself to be worshiped as a god. Instead, he focused on loving others and teaching them how to live life centered in God’s love and grace. He and his disciples told us to avoid, keep away from, and flee idolatry. (Matthew 6:19-24, John 14:6, Romans 7:7,1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 10:14 and 20, Galatians 4:8–10 and 5:9-21, Colossians 3:5, Hebrews 13:5-6, 1 John 5:21, Revelation 22:15)
As followers of Jesus, we can also avoid idolatry by following his example. We can love others – friends and family, neighbors, strangers, and especially those who are different from us. We can show them the same grace and compassion that Jesus showed to those around him. We can focus on God first and then on loving others as Jesus loves us rather than worshiping them or material objects. In that way we can be like Him and avoid temptation to idolatry.
Lent is a great time to focus on the importance of loving each other and avoiding idolatry. Consider what are your false idols and give them up for Lent. With Jesus as our example, we put God at the center of our lives. By doing that first, we love others properly and live lives that are pleasing to God.