What is an idol? I’ve addressed this at greater length elsewhere, but here’s a quick definition. An idol is anything we worship that is not the true God.
This definition of an idol includes the statues and poles shaped from wood and metal that we read of in the Old Testament. But it also includes more common things—even good things—we see and enjoy around us every day.
Family. Church. Reputation. Lack of conflict. Influence. Wealth. Knowledge. Success.
Because our hearts are expert in twisting and fashioning idols from good, God-given parts of our lives, identifying idols is a difficult task. In fact, it’s a task we cannot do on our own.
Idols Kill Relationships
Andy Crouch’s book Strong and Weak has some excellent advice for Christians who long to kill their idols.
The first things any idol takes from its worshipers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love—and the demonic powers that lurk behind them, and lure us to them, despise love. So the best early warning sign […] is that your closest relationships begin to decay. It is those relationships, after all, that could grant you the greatest real capacity for meaningful action. But they also demand of you the greatest personal risk. — Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak, pp. 106–107
The more we give ourselves to an idol, with its false promise of success or peace or power or happiness, the more our closest relationships wither.
Relationships may be a casualty of idolatry, but they also offer a strong defense against the same. The strategy is as simple to state as it is difficult to implement.
Ask your friends, consistently, about their closest relationships.
By asking your friend about her relationships with her sister, her mother, her best friend at work, or her husband, you may help her identify some idol currently gaining a foothold in the dark.
Part of the beauty of the church of God is that we’re not alone in the battle against sin. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have a valuable role to play in our friends’ spiritual lives. Having these conversations can be uncomfortable and awkward—they involve real risk!—but these interactions are a tangible way for us to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).
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