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Recognizing the Idols in Your Life

Have you ever made love to the earth?

Ecosexuals have. Founded by art professor and former prostitute Elizabeth Stephens and performance artist Annie Sprinkle, ecosexuality (also called sexecology) views the earth as a mate. The movement’s manifesto endorses  talking erotically to plants, admiring the planet’s curves and getting “pleasured by waterfalls.” Ecosexuals have hiked naked, kissed trees and married the Appalachian Mountains. In doing these and other practices, they hope to raise ecological awareness and express their erotic relationship with the environment. As Stephens explained,  “If you see the earth as your lover, as your equal, a partner, and not a force of nature to be overpowered or exploited, you’re less apt to mistreat it.”

Being a conventional kind of guy, I find sexecology to be bizarre, but it’s nothing new. The ancient Greeks worshipped the earth as a primordial goddess named Gaea. The Druids held rituals in groves and considered the oak tree sacred. Some ancient peoples engaged with “sacred prostitutes,” both male and female, believing that they were imitating the holy union between heaven and earth, which insured fertility and blessing. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah mentioned that many of the kings of Judah made sacrifices to the stars and poured out drink offerings to strange gods.

It’s easy to dismiss idolatry when it’s not your own. You may not think grass is sexy like an ecosexual does, but you might fantasize about another person who isn’t your spouse. That’s as much idolatry as worshipping the earth, moon and sun.

My wife and I have been watching “Gods of War,” hosted by pastor Kyle Idleman. In this teaching series, Idleman reminded us that idolatry is not just bowing down to statues of deities. Anything that displaces God in your life is an idol.

So how do you know if you have an idol on your hands? Idleman asks the following questions:

WHAT DO YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT MOST?

The things that you gripe about the loudest and longest may be an idol. Dissatisfaction that pushes you to change for the better is always good, but constant complaining without action reveals that you are allowing discontentment to supplant God.

AT WHAT ALTAR DO YOU SACRIFICE MOST OF YOUR TIME AND MONEY?

At the beginning of the month, do you write your first check to God’s work – or do you pay your bills first and then decide if you give to church or charity? Do you regularly use free time for service or does self-indulging fun always grab your discretionary hours? Your biggest investments reveal a lot.

WHAT DO YOU WORRY ABOUT?

I used to worry myself sick about a lot of things that never happened or weren’t worth the time I gave them. I’ve gotten much better, but sometimes I’ll catch myself entertaining an anxiety here or an apprehension there. Such worries can quickly become idols if we allow them to overcome faith and trust in God.

WHAT MAKES YOU MAD?

I’m not talking about righteous anger, the kind we experience when we witness bullies hurting the innocent or defenseless. I’m referring to those little triggers that can make us unexpectedly fly off the handle, like losing a board game or hearing an opinion that we don’t like. The need to win or “be right” all time can certainly be an idol.

WHAT DO YOU DREAM ABOUT?

Dreams can be wonderful things if they impel you toward noble goals. They can also become masters if they drive you to step on people, ignore obligations or lose your soul. Passion for God should never take a back seat to pursuit of earthly goals, no matter how worthwhile.

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From these questions, you can see that idolatry is a crafty foe. As Sarah Young notes in Jesus Calling, “current idols are more subtle than ancient ones, because today’s false gods are often outside the field of religion.” People can idolize romance, sex, possessions, hobbies, work, wrongful attitudes, entertainment — a thousand different things, thoughts or tasks that take precedence over God. Why, even church activity can become an idol if we forget the Lord of the work while carrying out the work of the Lord.

So, before we’re too hard on sexecology or any other practice that appalls us, let’s take a closer look at our own hearts. There may be an idol lurking there that’s every bit as real as a golden statue.

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