I stood across from a crowd of young faces, framed by tassels and caps. “Speak as if my own children were in those chairs,” I told myself, while approaching a wooden podium where I would deliver the commencement address to a graduating class of 2019.
I congratulated them, honored their hard work and welcomed them into the raw joy and pain of adulthood. “I only have fifteen minutes,” I said, “which I love, because I’m a big fan of getting to the point a little quicker these days.”
Here’s what I shared with the graduating class at a small Christian School in Toledo, Ohio on May 25th. But it wasn’t just for the students. This is a message I needed to write for my own heart.
Chances are, you’ve heard the term “idol worship.” For me, the term sparks mental images of false gods from the Old Testament like Baal and the golden calf. I see Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.
Manmade idols remain the focus of sincere worship in some cultures, but western culture has mostly whittled them down to souvenirs. Like those little Buddha statues that you can buy for your garden, or the decorations in The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World that sing back up for the birds. It’s not lost on me that consumer Christianity has done the same to Jesus at times.
Idol worship seems an ancient thing, but it’s very much alive today. It has simply shapeshifted into something that fits in with us. I could give you a long list of modern idols, but today I want to focus on one, that I believe to be the most fanatically worshiped idol of our time.
I believe our culture’s idol worship is idea worship.
We lose ourselves over new sensational ideas from celebrities, public figures, social media influencers, self-help gurus, authors, podcasters, prosperity preachers and professors. Owning the latest, greatest idea about life, love or spirituality is money in the bank.
“Do you see a person who is wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 26:12
The self-proclaimed wise and woke are all around us, and the popular majority of them bluntly mock the Christian faith, sneer at conservative values and scowl at those who dare to hold on to absolute truth. Even though absolutes are what truth is made of to begin with.
Today’s big ideas go beyond dismissing people of faith and traditional values. They often abandon science, biology, measurable facts and data in the pursuit of absolute acceptance of ALL popular new ideas. And it’s no longer enough to truly accept others in love, you must also love to accept their ideas as truth. Bow, fear, respect and admire them, or risk being displaced in our evolving society.
I firmly believe that every person on God’s green earth should be treated with love. We are all made in his image. We are all his creation. But let me be clear – You can love and accept people well… wait for it… without affirming or accepting their ideology. It’s true.
There was a time when people could disagree and still embrace one another as friends and neighbors. I fear those times are slipping away from us. I hope that I’m wrong.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
Itching ears long to hear what’s easy to accept. Accepting truth is hard. But truth is the anchor for mind and soul when your own heart and emotions seek to deceive you. People say, “follow your heart.” But the Bible reminds us, “the heart is deceitful above all else...who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Timothy Keller has said that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. Indifference is a luxury the soul cannot afford. Life will demand that you choose, either bow to your culture or bow to your creator.
Some of you will bow to the culture. Some of you already have. Believe it or not, you are loved by God and he will never stop pursuing your heart. My prayer is that when the wisdom and pleasures of this world leave you unfulfilled, that you, a beautiful creation, will find your way back to the place where you have always belonged – in your Creator’s arms.
To those of you who will choose your creator over your culture, don’t grow weary in doing what is good. (Galatians 6:9)And don’t believe the lie that you cannot love people well without loving their position or embracing their ideas.
I’ll close with some words from 1 Corinthians, chapter one. Listen close. Take it to heart. Remember where true power and wisdom comes from.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”(I Corinthians 1:27-31)
God bless you. Go and love well.