Of Men & Idols
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” Exodus 20:4-5 NKJV
14 “(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)” Exodus 34:14 NKJV
8 “I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images” Isaiah 42:8 NKJV
Going through the many reactions and responses to the recent rape scandal in the Nigerian Church, I am surprised to read some comments on the social media by people who call themselves Christians. Truly, it is best to reserve our criticisms of our fellow Christians, as this could further harm the general impressions of unbelievers about us. It is however difficult for me to assimilate or absorb some far-fetched and almost unthinkable responses that idolize the man of God, almost according him the respect and reverence that should be reserved for God alone.
Like someone said, it is only Christians that kill their wounded soldiers or leave them in the battle without help. The Bible did say that when a brother falls, those who are Godly should restore him (Galatians 6:1). Intrinsic in that verse is the assumption that the sinner accepts the sin and owns up to needing help. That is when help can be offered and accepted. Even in the absence of acceptance, there is a duty to point out the sin and not encourage it or ignore it, but rather help the person find a way out of sin and back on track. (James 5:19-20)
A very painful part of the aftermath of the scandal for me, is the reactions of a lot of Christians, defending their man of God and even denying the event. We do not have proof yet, whether or not the rape occurred, but the blind defense is what gets to me, and the excuses and arguments being proffered to support the positions.
Men of God are God’s servants and messengers, sent to represent Him and share His messages with the Body of Christ on earth. Because they represent God, they are to be respected. However, we must remember that they are still men and not God, so the respect we give should not be the reverence reserved for God. In addition, because they are men, they are equally susceptible to sin like all men are (men and women alike) and should not be deemed infallible, like God.
Anyone who knows our Heavenly Father well, knows that He does not share His glory with any man. He is also a Jealous God. In fact, the second scripture I shared at the beginning of this article states that His Name is Jealous. That is Who He is. What does jealous mean in this context? It means God does not want to share our affections with anyone. He expects our exclusive devotion to Himself. He wants for us to love Him and no other god; for us to love Him exclusively. We are not to put anyone else in His place or give our worship to any other.
God’s jealousy is not from His insecurity, anxiety, frustration or self-centeredness, as man’s jealousy often is. Jealousy is His character. It is an active and passionate display of His unceasing love, telling us that we matter, we are loved, we are wanted, and we belong.
It is one thing for us to take idols for ourselves, elevating mere men to positions due only to the Lord. It is another for the mere men to accept this honor and revel in it, thus accepting the worship of men, instead of directing them to God. Every believer can follow God on their own, because they have the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them. There is only one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ. So men should never think they are mediating. They must always point men to the Mediator, Jesus Christ. In fact, God speaks to believers directly by His Spirit and we do not need men of God to hear for us.
Most of the behavior we see in the Church today is as a result of the background of idol worship and African traditional religions. This orientation has been carried over into the church today.
Men who used to consult idols of the land through babalawos and witch doctors now just superimpose that structure into the church and we find men of God acting like babalawos, consulting for God. Does God not know His own children by name? Can He not save them by Himself? Does He not lead them and guide them by Himself? Which man of God has saved a soul before? We are saved by grace and this salvation is a gift of God. Yes, maybe a man of God told you about Jesus, that was just an introduction. You must have taken a decision, based on the prompting of God to your heart, to accept Jesus. The man of God did not shed His blood for you, Jesus did. So why do we want to worship the creation and not the Creator?
Respect is good. Honor is good. But only so much as we keep one thing in mind: the man of God is also working out his salvation with fear and trembling, same as every other Christian. He will answer to God for his personal walk of faith, same as everyone else. He is a man of God appointed to lead people and shepherd the flock of God, but the flock still belongs to God, not to him. The man of God is a laborer in the vineyard of God, like every other Christian. Yes, he is a leader. And yes, he is a shepherd. But he reports to the Good Shepherd, who alone is worthy of our worship.
We must not worship any man or serve them blindly just because they are leading us. It is a blessed thing that we have access to God directly and we can hear Him for ourselves. When in doubt, go back to the Bible, go back to prayer. Let God speak to you. Otherwise, we make ourselves vulnerable to be misled and might end up where we don’t want to be, with huge disappointments and broken hearts. The Bible says that the arm of flesh will fail. Men of God are first of all men of flesh, and they will grapple with that fact all of their lives, fighting to keep the flesh under, so that the Spirit will prevail over the flesh. That is the struggle of all believers, even men of God.
So, what am I saying today? If Paul could say that he is not perfect and does not consider himself to have attained but he keeps pressing on (Phil. 3:12-15); what type of people should we be? Let us re-calibrate our walk of faith and go back to the Bible to get our bearings, so that we can get ourselves back on track and press toward the goal for the prize that God has in store for us. Let us not major in minors, but focus on the things that are of eternal significance. As the Bible says:
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Cor. 4:18 NKJV
19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
2 Tim.2:19 NKJV