"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21 NIV)
The leaders of Ukraine recently made another bold move to rid their beautiful capital city - Kiev, of all the many statues of Lenin and Stalin. Many citizens of the former Soviet Union spent their entire lives under the stare of these huge figures made of stone and/or iron. Most cities in the old USSR had one large Lenin statue situated in Lenin Square that was usually located in the heart of the city.
The strong central government created much employment manufacturing and installing numerous smaller statues and busts of these deified men and placed them around parks, libraries, government buildings, hospitals, clinics, airports, bus stations, train stations, schools, universities, and yes - former chapels. This bold move of erecting statues to the heroes of Communism, helped the Bolsheviks and their successors change the culture and define the mores of this new world empire.
Kiev is one of the largest and most prominent cities of the former Soviet Union. No tourist or scholarly visit to Russia is complete without a trip to the historical and newly vibrant city of Kiev, the original home of the Rus. It surely required much courage along with positive hope to agree to topple these old symbols of Soviet power.
This bold move should allow a new generation to grow up without these constant reminders of a dark and repressive regime. We should congratulate Ukraine for making this difficult decision even when there are still many people who are sympathetic for a return to those old days when the USSR was a bastion of world power.
In the minds of many people, these fabricated objects served to constantly remind the citizens of their ideology and what it means to be a Soviet citizen. Was it more than just that? Did common folks actually feel a sense of worshipful awe with regard to Lenin and Stalin? Or were these sculpted and carved caricatures simply like the statues of war heroes around America and other countries. I even overheard someone who recently visited Mt. Rushmore tell what a sense of awe they experienced as they made the climb up to the viewing area of those sculptures of famous American presidents.
Each one of us must determine in our own minds whether or not we stand in worshipful awe at a statue of some famous person. I suppose that some fans of Hollywood productions might be awe-struck if they came upon a statue of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Walt Disney, Maureen O'Hara, Marilyn Monroe or some of the newly famous actors. Most of us probably know someone in the family with an Elvis statue or photo in their home.
Back in the days when coach "Bear" Bryant ruled the gridiron, it was not uncommon to walk into an office and notice that the most prominent thing on the executive's desk or credenza was a bust of Paul Bryant. If they didn't have that, they would at least have a plaque on the wall with his picture. At least that was the case in Alabama, unless you happened to be an Auburn fan. I know there were also hero worshippers among the Penn State fans, Florida fans, Bulldog fans, and not to mention the Notre Dame fans with their beloved coach who was not even Catholic. We don't even need to bring up the fervor of devotion that abounded in Ohio for coach "Woody" Hayes or the current fanaticism that permeates all sports to the point that schools and club owners bring huge sacrifices called salaries, bonuses etc. at the feet of the modern marvels of sports.
Why was idolatry such an offense that the Bible clearly reveals God's strong displeasure toward idols in both the Old and New Testaments? Rare indeed were any ancient cultures that did not practice some form of idolatry. The descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) were surrounded with neighbors who had entire cultures devoted to idol worship. These practices continued during the days of the Greek and Roman civilization. Thus, the early Christian church was also confronted with the problem of idols. Idolatry in any form is problematic for true worshippers of God, because God is a spirit and cannot be accurately caricatured. Even the best attempt at fashioning a likeness of God such as a solid gold calf, is an insult to our great, awesome and mighty Creator.
The practice of idolatry occurs whenever we place our devotion and affection upon a man-made object rather than upon the One in whom we trust. Once when I was a young man in the military, we were embarking upon a dangerous mission, and a priest came by and presented each person with a silver necklace that had an image of St. Christopher. This was something very strange for me and I just put it carefully away with my personal things. I noticed that some of my friends who were Catholic were very appreciative and immediately put it around their necks with their dog-tags. Honestly, to this day I cannot figure out what I was supposed to do with this object. I never treated it with any disrespect, nor did I show any affection toward it. Who was it supposed to remind me of? I don't know - but those boys did and it seemed to give them some type of comfort.
The apostle Paul encountered idolatry in his travels throughout the Roman Empire on his mission journeys for Jesus Christ and the church. He preached the Gospel and established churches in several countries or regions of Rome. We know from his writings that he stood very firmly against all forms of idolatry in the early church. He once even went so far as to brand the sin of covetousness or greed as idolatry."Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5 NIV)
We do not know what Jesus Christ looked like. It is not very likely that he resembled the images we see painted around the world and the movie characters that play his part. We do know for certain that Christ is the exact representation of God the Father. The more we know about Jesus from His teachings, the more we know about our Father in Heaven.
You are invited to all services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Write me with any questions or comments. David Binkley, Sr., PO Box 186 Cedar Key, FL 32625. E-mail email@example.com. Please visit our web site at www.cng cedarkeychurchofchrist.com