Here There Be Idols
Our hearts are idol factories (quote cred: Calvin, somewhere). We can make anything and everything an idol that we put in the place of God. We all agree that our culture has erected many idols around us. And they demand our worship. In order to stand against and topple over the idols of the world (which we must do), we must first recognize the idols in our own hearts. “Right, we get it, we know it,” you say. “But, really, tell us what to do with those idols out there.” There are all kinds of things to be done: rallies to attend, discipleship and mentoring to pursue, legislation to overthrow—on and on. In all earnestness, though, consider your weapons before engaging. Those things truly need to be done and should be pursued. But they are not the primary weapons we have.
Our weapons are not carnal, but they are powerful for pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). Paul identifies at least some of these weapons at the end of the list of armor in Ephesians 6. Christians should take up the sword of the Spirit, i.e., the Word of God (v. 17), to stand against the wiles of the devil. And this is accompanied with prayer: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (v. 18). So our main weapons are Scripture and prayer. But what is it that can hinder our weapons? What makes our prayer powerless? “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
We truly must first confront and tear down the idolatrous shrines in our own hearts and in the heart of the Church. Paul says that part of our casting down idols is “being ready to punish disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:6). When we obey the Word, our weapons are sharpened, tuned, and poised to topple over idols. But without obedience, without toppling our own idols first, we cannot expect to succeed.
There are some chilling similarities between the idols out there and the sacrifices they require, and the idols in our own hearts. I hope to walk through three examples of this sort of idol matching in a series of posts. For now, I’ll handle just the first comparison.
The culture has erected an idol of same-sex mirage, the idea that two people of the same sex can get married. (N.B.: I’m dealing here specifically with the claim about marriage, not homosexual practice.) The sacrifice it requires is the God-defined institution of marriage. Same-sex mirage is not marriage, but you are told to acknowledge that it is and respect it. Not sure this is an idol? Observe the way people react to you when you start to contradict its demands. Bible-believing Christians affirm that this is something that we must resist, an idol of our culture at large that must be toppled over.
However, this idolatrous ideology is mirrored in our own hearts in two ways. First, far more often than many of us are willing to admit, churches and Christian communities tolerate sex or other forms of intimacy outside of marriage, both before and during. Too many people think that it is okay to have sex together before marriage. Even those that don’t think this quickly fall into fornication because they submit to the idol of their own personal choice and happiness that is in their hearts. When couples fornicate, it shows that, even if only for a moment, God is not ruling in their hearts. Fornication is basically taking God’s gift of sex, the thing He designed to make a husband and wife one flesh, and abusing it for your own purposes. It is bowing down to your idol instead of to God. But this is also true for what might be construed as “tame fornication.” There’s actually nothing tame about it, but people think that acting as one flesh without penetration is okay. This kind of thing ranges from intense petting and sexting to flirting or exposing your deep thoughts and emotions to someone not your spouse. If you start feeling defensive having read that, that’s probably your conscience trying to speak up.
Second, many couples countenance the idea of divorce simply because things are not working out. It is easy to forget on your wedding day and maybe for a bit afterwards that when you entered into marriage, you married a sinner. Or, more importantly, your spouse married a sinner. Things are going to be tough. There will be struggles and disagreements and habits to be broken and remade. This is why marriages are bound by covenant vows. Wedding vows are not for your wedding day. They’re for the lean years. To say that you are thinking about a divorce because things are tough, because your spouse has changed, or whatever the excuse is, is wicked. God hates it. You are trying to tear apart and separate what God has joined together.
The advocates of same-sex mirage will say that God’s definition of marriage is bogus, old-fashioned, antiquated. Sex or marital intimacy outside of marriage is idolatrous, defining marriage or one-fleshness as something that can be entered into casually at your whim. Divorce, apart from the grounds the Bible lays out, is likewise idolatrous, defining marriage as something that can be abandoned as you please.
So, take down these idols. See that marriage is something God has designed, defined, and instituted. Don’t abuse it before you get there. Don’t abuse it after you’re married. Honor God in this way. This is the first step to bringing down the idol of same-sex mirage.