“That is one ugly looking idol.” It was a place in the local market I rarely went. Mostly because I never had anything I needed to buy in that section of the market but also because I was kind of weirded out by what was hanging from the walls of the various booths. Llama fetuses, teeth and jaw bones of deceased animals, bizarre religious masks and wood carved idols with grotesque faces, horns and octopus like arms. But with a missions team visiting from the states, this area of the market was an intriguing place to walk and get a local flair for the highly “spiritual” culture of the indigenous peoples. While just walking in the place gave me the creeps I always found it fascinating that people felt so compelled to worship lifeless objects.
Psalms 115:2-8 gives a great picture into this reality:
“Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
Those disturbing objects hanging from the market booth and the corresponding wooden statues are simply idols made by “human hands.” I love the perspective that the author gives here when pointing out that the mouths of these objects can’t speak, ears can’t hear, noses can’t smell etc. Unlike the one true God (who does “speak” truth, who does “see” our circumstances, who does “hear” our cries and prayers, who does “smell” the incense of our prayers, who does have a healing “hand” and who does “walk” with us daily) these idols are completely dead and lifeless.
I once heard someone comment that God made us in his image and we now make idols in ours. Whether gold, silver, wood or otherwise our idols simply reflect the truth that humanity is forever seeking to fill the God shaped void in it’s heart with something precious, something meaningful, something that gives us what we want.
No matter what culture you do ministry in, there will always be an idol that stands in the way of God. For some it is a carved figure for others a bank account, but all rob God of his glory and leave worshippers spiritually blind, mute, deaf and lifeless.
The truth of God penetrates
As Reconciled World partners with people in various cultures and continents we seek to take a wholistic approach to sharing God’s truth and love with them. First and foremost, we emphasize the practice of depending on God through praying and pursuing God’s ways and values. Secondly, we always seek to work with the local church. The local church understands the native spiritual dynamics and has a commitment to its community and people. The church, Christ’s bride, has a unique opportunity to reflect God in its society. Thirdly, we aim to speak truth to brokenness in all areas of life. (Learn more about our approach and 7 core principles here)
Hidden behind every idol is a broken heart with broken relationships. Reconciled World recognizes that it is God and God alone that brings transformation to this brokenness. No person or idea in and of itself will bring transformation absent of God. Therefore, our work is built around sharing, modeling, and nurturing the truth of God into the hearts of others. Sprinkled throughout our blog are entries that share glimpses of God at work around the world. I encourage you to read these amazing stories. You will find them uplifting and encouraging in your work.
God became flesh
As I reflect on our work I am reminded that our staff and servants around the world are a beautiful reflection of their creator and maker. As they enter churches and work with communities they represent the hands and feet of Christ. As they serve the vulnerable and care for the marginalized it’s glimpses of God that are depicted. As ambassadors they reflect Jesus who came and dwelled among us to testify to truth. He loved, served, sacrificed and pursued the will of the father even to death on the cross. No idol has done that! Their idols sit and stare with meaningless eyes. With time they rot, decay, rust and corrode. But our God filled with love came and walked among us, that we might find mercy and peace in our time of need.
How might you reflect the goodness of God in your context as an ambassador of Jesus? What idols have taken your culture hostage? What truth can you share that exalt the living God who reigns in heaven and on earth?
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalms 115:1