A word from Jim Wallis to all of us idolaters:
“What is the greatest failure of Christians in this country?
“When they don’t think and act as Christians first.
“Instead, they act first as Americans, consumers, partisans, or sports fans. This kind of idolatry can result in very un-Christian behavior. These kinds of Christians sometimes forget that we are supposed to love the immigrant, provide for the poor, and promote peace among all nations.”
“Idolatry” is a tough word, reserved in Scripture for people not on God’s side. But most of us must admit that we have been idolatrous at times, often too much of the time.
I once idolized the Dallas Cowboys. If they lost, it literally ruined my day, making me not a nice person to be around. The Cowboys’ mediocrity of recent years has made it a requirement that I give up this idolatry if I was to remain a decent person, but the temptation is still there.
I’m also tempted to idolize my family. My wife, children, children-in-law, and grandchildren are the subjects of much of my thought and attention. I would do just about anything for them. I would not say that I worship them, but people who know me might think I come close.
I’ve also come close to worshiping this nation of mine. I love the United States of America. Captain America is my favorite superhero. The American founding fathers are among my biggest regular heroes. Of course, that last sentence is really the key for me. I love what America stands for. I love our founding principles. I love our freedom. I love our opportunity. I do not always love what America does.
I’m reminded of a phrase I heard somewhere along the way — “America, right or wrong.” If by that, one means that he or she is committed to be a good citizen of the United States whether it is in the right or the wrong, then I can affirm it. If by that, one means that they will support a decision of the United States whether is is right or wrong, then I cannot affirm it. This is because, as Wallis entreated, I desire to think as a Christian first.
I referenced the American and sports fan parts of what Wallis said. While the consumerism and partisanship may not be my temptations toward idolatry, they surely are such for some. In fact, partisanship is probably the single biggest reason behind many of this nation’s problems. Since President Obama took office, the Republican Party’s overriding goal seems to have been regaining full control of the government. Of course, that’s the most obvious recent example. Highly partisan Democrats would do the same thing in defense of their interest groups.
Wallis, in his e-letter, offers a solution. “The antidote is simple. Christians need to read their Bibles more,” he says. When we read our Bibles, we realize what is important to the God of the Bible. The strange thing is that so many so-called Bible-believing Christians do not seem to share the overriding concerns of God as expressed in Scripture. It is, therefore, not just a matter of reading our Bibles; it’s a matter of reading our Bibles with new eyes. That’s not a easy task for those of us who are older, but it is not an impossible task because the Spirit of God is stirring in our midst desiring to help us see God’s truth more clearly.
A prayer: May we see God’s truth better in the coming year.