I read that in a description of Ikon‘s Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani service, and it really struck me. I’ve been thinking about this a little lately as I have been falling more and more in love with Jesus and finally realising that the Gospel really is ‘good news’, almost to the point of forgetting that it was ever ‘bad news’ in the first place. I’m kind nearing the stage where I just can’t shut my big fat gob about Jesus (although I will shy away from the topic in certain social situations). So, when I’m talking about Jesus to people who don’t know him (or even know much about him), and I’m spouting off about how wonderful he is, I’m concerned about giving the wrong impression – that it’s an easy ride, that it’s all really wonderful, all of the time. I’ve been struggling to be able to explain what exactly the ‘bad news’ is as well as I can articulate what I love about Jesus. But I think I’ve found a good delineation:
You have to give up your idols.
Which is hard, otherwise they wouldn’t be idols in the first place. And perhaps you’ve spent your entire life holding them tighter and tighter without realising that this was a problem or that you were even doing it.
I think Tim Keller, basing his thinking on Kirkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death, has the best definition of idolatry – the idea that everyone bases their identity on something(s) and if it’s not Jesus it will eventually fail you. So, while this can be the usual suspects such as money, fame, power and how easily you can get laid, this also means that you can idolize your moral performance, family, social popularity, self-image, career, intelligence, etc. It’s turning good things into ultimate things. When you’ve spent years relying on these things they have to be pried from your cold dead hands before you’ll give them up, or at least that’s what it feels like at the time.
God is the only thing you can base your identity on that won’t let you down and that will actually lead to growth and the fullness of life. But giving those idols up can be haaaaaaaaaard!
Everything feels more painful at first – take, for instance, accepting that you are a sinner. Ouch! Blow to the ego, much? But it’s actually freeing and healing, and that ego was toxic anyway. Letting go is excruciating, but it has to be done – we do, after all, follow a guy who came “not to bring peace, but a sword”, and we owe him no less.
You have to give Jesus everything. He can’t just be a hobby or periphery interest that you dabble in (although he can certainly be this at the earlier stages of your faith journey). It’s hard to explain that to people who are near the threshold of the Kingdom of God without feeling like you’re pushing them away.