May 26, 2007

No other gods . . .

When I was thirteen, I had 1200 or so pictures of Elvis Presley (which, like old comic books, might be valuable today, but I’ve no idea what happened to them). I don’t remember the next “idol” only, like most people, I thought those in the limelight must be special people in some way. Even after becoming a Christian, I supposed the “stars” would have spirituality down pat, and be just super in all areas of their lives.

But then I met a few “names” and began to realize that the well-known are pretty ordinary people. The first was a woman who wrote a book on prayer. Her book impacted me, but I was more affected by her ordinariness. She was like the homemaker next door, a person that would be comfortable wearing an apron and making cookies just as much as writing a best-selling book. This was a pleasant surprise for me.

The next one was a missionary whose husband was killed by those he wanted to reach. She went on to minister to the very same people who murdered him, and wrote books about her experience. This giant in Christian circles was crabby the day I met her, not the “perfect saint” that I held up in my mind. She even said herself how uncomfortable she was with ‘hero-hood’ because she knew her own ordinariness.

The list goes on. We attended a big church in southern California whose pastor has a radio ministry, writes books and looms large in Christian circles. He humbly says of himself that while he is a “preaching machine,” he is useless in almost all other things and needs a large staff so there are people who can do the rest of the work needed by his congregation.

All of this changed my views on hierarchy in the world and the church. None of us are perfect, and even those whose talents are used by God to put them ‘on the map’ are just like the rest of us. As one person says, they put their pants on one leg at a time.

Jesus hinted at the way things will be when we enter heaven. There, everyone one will be “like the angels” and the system of things here will change. No one will be ‘special.’

Paul says this is partly true now. He said that those who belong to Jesus becomes children of God and wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

He was not erasing this world’s distinctions. We do have different races, social and cultural norms. God created sexual distinctions too. Yet in His mind, there are no spiritual inequalities. In Christ, we are all one, regardless of gender, the color of our skin, what we do for a living, or how famous we might become.

In this world, God does ordain some differences. Regarding authority, He tells me to obey the police, stop demanding my own way all the time in my marriage, give attention to the leaders in my church, and so on, but He makes it clear that even though some are given authoritative roles, that does not make them better than anyone else. In fact, they are ordinary folks just like me, but with greater responsibility, greater challenges and demands, and greater temptations. Because of that, I’m to support them and pray for them, not put them on a pedestal and risk disappointment or disillusionment when I see their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

No more idols or hero-worship. I don’t even line-up for autographs. Seeing the reality of how God looks at everyone, including prominent people, changes how I think and pray. Instead of putting people up there somewhere, I know that all temptations are “common” to human beings. We are in this together. Besides, God wants me to put Jesus up there, and only Him, because, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

The rest of us are to bow before Him and Him alone, and simply say, “Amen.”

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