Monday, February 23, 2004

Family worship 

When I moved out to Limon, I talked to the previous pastor here to find out some things about the new community I was coming to. I knew that on the one hand, people are people, and there is nothing new under the sun. And in many ways that has proved exactly right. There are people getting divorced; with drug problems; with rebellious teenagers, etc etc.

But I also knew that different environments and cultures provided different problems to deal with, or perhaps the same problems in different clothes. And the previous pastor (rest his soul) did not disabuse me of my suspicion. He told me something interesting- people in agricultural communities worship family. So the title of this refers not to worshiping together with your family (which I'm in favor of) but actually worshiping your family (which I'm opposed to).

I've been exploring this subject with people in my church and have been hearing story after story of people who do just this. This often takes the form of the patriarch; the man who came out here and carved a living out of nothing. His wife and kids view him as the center of the universe, as God himself. If he goes to church, so do they, and they go where he goes. If he doesn't, they don't either. When he lives, he dictates everything, and when he dies, he often tries to rule beyond the grave through the will and inheritance. I also often hear about people going to particular churches because it's where their family goes. I'm talking about adults here- grown children go where their parents or their brother or sister or whoever goes, even if there are other churches that have better teaching.

From Matthew 19:
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Anything can be an idol. Love of your family is a good thing, but your family can't become your God. In the city where I come from, people worship their money, their SUV, their vacations, their career. Here in Limon, in agricultural communities, it's their family, their community, their ranch. Even church can be your idol. What do you trust for your happiness in life? What do you trust for your security in the future? What do you look to for your definition of right and wrong?

There's your God. If you answered anything other than God to any of those questions, then you need to take a look at the possibility that you're an idol-worshiper.

We're all idol-worshipers. It's the basic problem. Becoming conformed to the image of the Son means putting away the idols. And you know what? When you tell people they shouldn't worship their SUV, they'll readily agree with you. But try telling someone they shouldn't love their family as much as they do... That they need to love God more than their family. That's really hard for some people to hear.

What always ends up happening is that the Lord gets involved. Somebody dies, somebody gets divorced, somebody is molesting someone. Something happens. And then people realize that their idol is blind, deaf, and lame. Their family can't help them. In fact, their family is the problem. And then, those that are God's turn to Him.

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