Title: Idolatry And Christianity_1
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Whereas Idolatry, a noun word, is simply the worship of idol(s), an idol is primarily defined as an image or representation of a god, used as an object of worship, with an extended definition including a person or a thing extremely admired, loved or revered. So it can be safely concluded that Idolatry is the worship of an image or representation of a god, a being or direct worship of that object. The act of worship remains the major activity around idolatry and so it becomes important to have a fair understanding of what worship entails. Worship is generally a feeling or an expression of adoration for someone or something. In conclusion, for the sin of idolatry to be committed;
1. There must be an object central to the act of idolatry which may be the real object to be worshipped or its image or any other image.
2. There must be an intense feeling or an extreme expression of adoration or reverence for the object of idolatry.
From all the above, it can be safely argued that idolatry is not only about a specific religious sect and their practices, but also any act of man, irrespective of his/her religious inclination, that tends towards the expression of adoration and reverence for a physical object. From this point of view, it also implies that anyone, if not careful can be unknowingly caught in the act. This is because it has a foundation in emotion which is an aspect of man that most people have been unable to take full control of.
Matters of emotion mostly grow quietly and unconsciously. It is usually noticed when the effect of the emotional action begins to produce undesirable effects on the person. Most human beings, for example would love to have money but when this love gets to the point where nothing else matters but the possession of the money, then such can be said to be on the verge of developing an idolatrous relationship with money. The reason for the intensity of the expressed love will not matter, as much the act of emotion expressed. Sometimes the object of idolatry can be hidden in a location with the idolater not realising it and erroneously believing that it is love for the location that is the motivating factor for intense desire to be at that location. Until something moves the object of idolatry from that location, such a person will sacrifice anything to be at that location. An individual may have the habit of being in a club almost every hour of every day with the impression given that such is very social but that may not be true as the real reason may be the assurance that he/she will achieve a particular goal which is associated with that location. None of the above acts and similar ones not mentioned, will in themselves be considered idolatry until there is an evidence of worship, that is reverence or adoration, in that emotional act. It thus becomes obvious that anyone who is unable to control any form of emotional attachment to a human being or an object is a potential idolater and such needs to be extremely cautious to avoid being caught in that act. It is good to love something (husbands, wives and children alike), but there should always be a limit to the emotional expression. This limit most times must be relative to a particular standard before it can be described as idolatry.
In the Christian environment, this standard is the love for the Almighty God. Christianity, beyond making it clear that nothing should be loved more than the Almighty God, goes further to capture the act of idolatry from its conception stage. This is evident in the instruction of the Lord to Moses on Mount Horeb. The first two of those instructions, which have since been classed as a the Ten Commandments address the issue of idolatry, which probably reveals the importance of avoiding this act of idolatry, to the Almighty God.
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,”. – Exo. 20:3-5 NIV
The following points extracted from that scripture give a clearer picture of God’s definition of idolatry.
1. Having another being or object different from Jehovah as god will be seen as idolatry. This point acknowledges the existence of some beings or objects that may have superhuman abilities but they must never be rated above Jehovah, irrespective of the extent of their influence. This has nothing to do with whether they have superior or inferior abilities in comparison to that of the Almighty God but it is simply that there is no reason for them to be considered higher than Jehovah. It implies that the mere thought of the possibility of any being or object being better positioned to achieve any objective and be so recognised is already an act of idolatry. Nothing should ever make the Christian consider any being or object better placed to resolve an issue than Jehovah as such thoughts make such a person an idolater. You just cannot place any other god before Jehovah.
2. Creating an image with the intention of bowing or worshipping such will be idolatry. The making of the image will not be the act of idolatry since the Almighty God Himself directed Moses, when he was with him on Mount Horeb, to view all he has been shown very well as he will need to make the exact replica in the tabernacle he was to create for him on earth – Ex. 25:40. The exact replica will be an image of the things he saw. The actual act of idolatry in this instance will be bowing or worshipping such images.
To bow to such images goes beyond the physical act of bending the head or the upper part of the body or genuflecting before such objects. It is more of attaching profound reverence to those objects rather than who or what they represent. The altar of God that Moses built is a replica of what he was shown. It should be honoured and revered, not because of the physical features that are seen but the Almighty God and the heavenly setup that its presence represents. The altar without the Presence of the Almighty God remains what it is, an ordinary platform, probably elevated and within a bounded space. Same goes for the other items associated with worship sessions such as the rod of Moses and the Manna inside the Ark of Covenant, or personal items used by worshippers. They are expected to be honoured because of the God in whose name they were dedicated. Any thought different from this when these images are considered will be viewed by the Almighty God as acts of idolatry.
If the act of bowing to such images is unacceptable, then the act of worshipping them is even worse. To worship those images is to elevate them to the status of gods by associating them with super natural abilities on their own. The rod of Moses remains a rod. It was not what divided the Red Sea even though that was what Moses pointed at the Red sea. To even think that the Red Sea divided into two because of the ability of the rod is idolatry. It is the power behind the rod that should be seen. That is why pointing the rod at other times when the Lord has not said so will never split a stream, more so a Sea of the magnitude of the Red Sea. Same goes for the handkerchief and apron of the Apostle Paul (Acts 19:12), the cloak of Elijah (2Kgs. 2:8-15), etc.
Christians should be aware of the ease with which one can slip into the act of idolatry and avoid it as much as possible as it remains a major act of transgression that the Almighty God will never tolerate. Not to tolerate it will mean that He will apply all measures to prevent or punish it.
This concludes the first part of this article. The article can be downloaded from our website: www.crossandcrownchristianministry.org.
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