Today I want to talk in a different way a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. In that post I talked about the idea that as Christians in our current culture we need to lead with the truth of Jesus. We can’t let Jesus become simply a means to our end. I talked about how we should use the truth of Jesus vs. the language of the present. Or at the least we should let the truth of Jesus be our larger context for any language we use. I said we need to lead with The Truth instead of being in constant reaction mode.
Today I want to think about another angle of this same basic idea.
What should our goal as Christians be? What are we aiming at? Yes each individual believer but also corporately. What is the ultimate goal?
This matters more than you might imagine. We all, every human, worship something. We are made to worship God. We are made to bow to Him and Him alone. Where we go wrong, and in fact you could define original sin this way, is that we choose to be our own God. We worship something else, our own plan, our own agenda, our own “truth”.
Now the odd thing about this is that often we worship “good” things. This is because we were, after all, created good. And regardless of how broken we are, we still are made in the image of God. But the problem is that without Jesus, that image is broken by our sin. So in that broken image we worship things that may look good, and in fact may even be good on their own merits, but which are not the ultimate good.
When we do this, what happens is that we trade out some of the ultimate good. So even though we worship/work towards a “good” thing, it goes badly in some way because it is not the ultimate good.
It is also usually bad because we are the ones controlling it, or attempting to. Our aim becomes the thing, led by us. This is why for example I might want a monarchy. As long as I can be king. Because if I were king I’d make all the right moves for the people etc. We know, of course, how this works out. It doesn’t. We, you and I, a governmental plan, economic platform, or any other “plan” are not the savior.
Let’s get practical. There are lots of things that I can become focused on that are good. Taking care of the poor for example. Who doesn’t want that. Or taking care of the environment. Again, good idea. Who isn’t for that? Some might say ending abortion. Again, I’m for that. Stamping out racism. Most people I know want that. Having a safe society. Who doesn’t want that?
But what happens is that if I get focused on just one of these things to the point that I worship it, that it becomes my religion so to speak, bad things happen. I’m trying to control it. I’m thinking if we can just do this one thing, then we will be creating a utopia. If we just do it right (my way) then we will get there.
The problem is that when you aim at something other than Jesus – and I mean all of Jesus – then things go badly. And not just for you. You end up with your aim being at something lesser than the best aim. And often it can spiral downhill from there.
It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t really give us a particular program to aim at. In the sermon on the mount he calls us to be perfect – to aim at perfection. He gives a lot of lessons about a lot of things but when asked what is the greatest command He states that it is to Love God with all your being and second is to love others. Including your enemies. In other words Worship God and out of that you’ll love others – all others.
Worshiping the lesser thing leads to idolatry of that thing. It makes it nearly impossible to love those opposed to this lesser thing. It leaves out Jesus
Here’s an example of this from the scripture (in my paraphrase). In Mark 14 Jesus is reclining at a table with his disciples and others. A woman comes in and pours perfume worth 300 days wages over him. Now there were some who were indignant about this. They said, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold for 300 days wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her for doing this.
Jesus responds and says, “Why are you mad at her? She has done an incredible thing for me. The poor will always be with you. You can care for them any time. You only have Me for a little while longer. She has prepared by body for burial. In fact whenever and where ever my story is told, her’s will be as well.”
Is Jesus saying helping the poor is bad? Of course not. What He is saying though is that He is the greatest good. This woman worshiped Him. She gave Him what was surely the best thing she had. She aimed at Him.
Here’s the thing, if we aim at Christ, then all other things will ultimately be hit. You see it in the greatest command. If you love God with your whole being, a natural outgrowth of that is loving everyone else. The degree to which you put your attention on Christ will impact your ability to help with the lesser aims. First comes worship. The rest lays itself out.
But if we aim at the lesser goods (even if they are “good”) the part becomes the whole. That’s ideology. Ideology is idolatry. Doesn’t matter which one it is. It’s bad. Every time. You can back that up with theology . . . or just read a history book.
This is why we must be led by and aim at Jesus. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about some things more than others or that we shouldn’t pick a side on a certain issue. What it means is that the issue can’t become our God. It can’t be the thing driving me. It can’t be on the throne. That seat is reserved for Jesus. Because it’s right. And because any thing else on the seat leads to bad places. Look around. Who is on the throne? Who is on yours?