Idolatry is not a disease, its a deficiency

Too Much Love…

A friend confided in me, “I don’t think I’m ready for this relationship right now. I know how it will go, how it always goes with me. I will love her too much and she will just turn into a distraction.” He was talking about a woman he had met recently. She loved Jesus and was a worthy woman to pursue, but he was coming off a relationship that hadn’t ended well. He continued, “I feel like this is what always happens—I make a girl an idol, and then I think God takes her away, maybe to punish me… I don’t know.”

Our conversation went on from there, but his comments got me thinking. First of all, I wondered if he was right. Had he loved his last girlfriend too much? Is that even possible? Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 7:33 that believers will be somewhat distracted if they get married, so there is some air to his point, but I struggled with the words “love her too much”. That cannot possibly be the problem, I thought, there is no such thing as loving someone too much.

Real love is patient and kind, unboasting, unselfish, forgiving, durable, trusting, hopeful, unfailing (you may detect that I’m paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13). You can’t be too much of these things. I would wager that the person we will love least in the kingdom of heaven, we will love more deeply than any here on Earth. When you turn a person into an idol, then, the issue is not that you love them too much but rather that you love God too little. If you love a person more than God, then your love is idolatry.

Love and Idolatry

Anything we love or serve before God is an idol, and people often make the most tempting of idols because they are made in God’s image. They can possess a counterfeit glory the mimics or reflects the most beautiful aspects of God. But how do we protect our hearts against the danger of turning other human beings into objects of worship—idols? The answer cannot possibly be to repress our love for others. If I love people more than God, the problem is not that I love people too much! The problem is that I love God too little! My idolatry is a symptom of my true diagnosis: coldheartedness toward God—a lack of faith in the reality of his love for me.

If my computer lacks the power to process my files, I should not downgrade my files. I should upgrade my processor! If my love for God is too feeble to encompass and align all my lesser loves, than I need a bigger love for God.

Rediscovering Love

This idea has brought everything into focus. We have it all wrong if we see life as a tension between competing loves, as though our role is to push back whatever worldly loves infringe on God’s primacy. Instead, we should view every good thing in this world as 1) A gift from God 2) A reminder to love God more 3) Fuel for that love.

The Bible tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above… everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (James 1:17, 1 Timothy 4:4). God made everything and He wants us to receive it all in a way that gives him credit, gratitude—love. He wants us to receive his good gifts in a way that humbles us because we know we don’t deserve them. Again, He says, “What do you have that you did not receive, and if you did receive it, why do you boast and brag as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

God wants us to love him more. That’s what life is all about. It’s not about the other things! Its about the generous God who is better than all his good gifts. Whether you realize it or not, every single thing you love about another person is something you are actually loving about God, because every good and perfect gift is from above. So you love someone because they are kind, joyful, or gentle, etc.? They are only kind or joyful or gentle insofar as they are imaging God’s character! They are only loving, joyful, peaceful or patient insofar as they are empowered by God’s Spirit, acting as the hands and feet of God’s Son. God made us ‘very good’ to show that He is even better. Whatever quality you think you are loving in another is actually a glimpse in that person of the true Source of beauty.

So the next time you see an idol in your heart, take that prompt to love God more. Repent of the idolatry, and yes, kill it—there is nothing more inane than choosing a created thing over the Creator it points to. But hear the prognosis, “You don’t love God enough”. You need to upgrade your processor again. Look at what you are actually seeking in each idol and see how it is really God you are after. Thank him for creating whatever good quality it is that points to him and ask him for the faith to see that He is the deepest, truest source of your need.

Idolatry isn’t a disease, it’s a deficiency.

If you are hungry, God is true bread. If you are thirsty, He is true drink. If you are lonely, God is Love. If you are afraid, the LORD is a Warrior. If you are grieving, He weeps with those who weep and will someday wipe your tears away and make everything that is sad come untrue. If you are lost, God is the home you seek. If you are poor, He is your very great reward. If you are in love, God is the glimmer of glory you glimpse in the eyes of your beloved. May your love for God grow, and so make room for a whole world full of flourishing little loves that point all their glory back to God, that He might be your all in all.

 

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Comments

  1. Joy W

    The friend’s comment is very sad. It sounds like he has been hurt a lot and so is believing a lie about why it “always happens this way” and he is still alone — he says God is “punishing” Him. I’ve done that before — believed different reasons for why I was rejected or for why things did not go the way I had hoped, and beat myself up. I think the answer is to understand God’s immense love for us “We love Him because He first loved us” and the worth we have in God’s eyes, and that is not dependent even on what other’s think. Being secure in God’s love and TRUSTING HIM to work in our lives, even through the bad things or bad decisions we made, to turn it into something beautiful in the end — THEN we are FREE to have a healthy relationship with another human being. Sometimes it is so hard in our relationship with God to stop striving! Its not about how good we can be, but His mercy, grace, and love in our lives. He is a good God.

  2. Kristin B

    Excellent article, thank you so much for sharing!

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