Jesus brought a revolution in the understanding of God. His life and message made it impossible to overstate the extravagance of God’s compassion and love. You are loved. This God on display in Christ is of a God who loves you no matter what you’ve done, said, or thought in your life. Everything else just falls flat, especially all those idolatrous views of God that see a lurking, menacing “one false move God” ready to pounce on you if you go astray and cast you into hell. Those projections also create a seemingly opposite Santa Claus type god, blessing us with material and spiritual gifts, betraying our idolatry and desires for what the world is selling.
In both of these idolatrous takes on the Divine, our failings are exposed, not God’s. In the first scenario of a lurking God waiting to pounce, this is more akin to the ancient’s view of a chaotic pantheon of gods, who would strike someone down without cause or reason. The only human response was to keep your head down, do your job, maintain the status quo, and make an annual sacrifice every now and then to appease the gods. Interestingly, the first time the word “sin” is in the bible, it doesn’t appear with Adam and Eve, but in a conversation between God and Cain right before he kills his brother, Abel –“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) So, not surprisingly, we get who God is completely backwards! God is holy, not sin, but so many Christians hold onto such a mischaracterization of who God is.
The second view of God as a bestower of blessings or the Prosperity Gospel as a sign of faithfulness is equally off base. Especially when we consider the time when Jesus was tired and hungry in the wilderness and tempted by Satan. The three temptations were to make stones into bread, to cast himself down from the top of the temple and rule the nations of the world as a powerful empire. These temptations, lurking around Jesus were to manipulate his material world, create a spectacular sign that would create instant notoriety, and appeal to the desire for power. Jesus rejects all these temptations because they do not display the nature of God or for God’s creation. Jesus came to destroy those old views of what the gods were or represented.
The first Commandment given to Moses was: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) So the question for us becomes, what are the other gods we put before the God of the Bible in our lives? Do these other gods become our “golden calves” instead of the real thing? Does our pursuit of wealth, the latest gadgets, admiration, being right, being connected to the right people, being entitled to more than others, or holding the right degrees or position, distort our view of God? Perhaps, instead of acknowledging that we are made in the image of God, we are actively making God over into our image? Idolatry is not a new thing, but one of the oldest things. It is a thing we can easily slip into and that’s probably why it is addressed twice in the first two of the Ten Commandments where worship of other gods was forbidden as well as making any images of God.
To pray to any god other than the One who finds sheer delight in reconciliation is an illusion or projection. The life and message of Jesus smashes every idol that we have made for God, for good. God loves you and you can do nothing to make God love you any less. For me, this is true because God’s fullest self-revelation is witnessed in the person of Jesus. So lay down those secret, outdated, menacing/enabling gods without any power or vitality down at the feet of Jesus and see what happens next. I imagine there will be some smashing and hugging!
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)