No Other Gods

What Do You Think? Wednesday

Joshua thought he knew them all, the 10 Commandments that we’ve spent the last few weeks on. As I told you Monday, he snarled a bit and glanced for something else but realized these rules can easily escape. I did, too, only my realization wasn’t of a memory loss but something I had yet to even consider.

Thou shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

I had this first commandment locked in mind when my eyes opened to all the idols that consumed my life: African décor; my hair; my Sunday dress; and my need to defend myself were at the top of the list. I wrestled with these gods for years, finally pinning them down and not bowing to them again. But my desire to defend myself is rising again as I wrestle with the loss in the eyes of some loved ones of my good reputation, my new idol that I just recognized as such.

My loved ones have always felt free to challenge me, the way I handled a friendship, responded to my boss or even wore my hair. For the most part these challenges were occasional, but now their challenges are a constant strum and the music seems so loud! I have loved ones who question the effectiveness of the boys’ home education though they have seen the benefits; a friend who questions my social justice record; and some who say I’m insensitive, harsh even. None of the challenges are new. Now they just seem to be a concentrated steady beat.

I thought because some of the challenges—like my decision to home educate or my less visible focus on social justice—were old that my people would have settled my decisions in their minds. Not so. Even though my loved ones are a minority and their challenges oppose the many notes and face to face comments I get, I focus on the noisy minority. I have contemplated returning to an idol to try to get them to see the merit in my decisions, and this is troublesome. My focus, however, is understandable.

We all expect that our loved ones who we believed knew our good character would not question our character (e.g., positioning my children for failure or disregarding those in need). It hurts that the person our loved ones knew to make wise decisions is no longer treated as wise when our decisions go contrary to what they believe. To make the pain go away, to make our relationships right again, we consider what we might not otherwise consider, in my case defending myself. When I wrote a post about how a change in you may change others’ view of you, at that time I didn’t know that the pain associated with their changed view of me is really coming from the death of my reputation. I had a good name among them, but now my character is challenged as I seek to do what I know God has called me to do.

Of course in my attempt to obey Christ I mess up. I say some things the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong tone, but never did I suspect my decisions would negatively color my character. I didn’t suspect that because I had a stellar reputation, one I held in high esteem when I should have viewed it as nothing.

The Apostle Paul commands believers not to put “confidence in the flesh,” citing that his human pedigree could cause him to be the most boastful of all (Philippians 3:4-6). Instead he says,

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11).

That’s the confidence I need; that’s the confidence we all need as we attempt to surrender all, even a reputation.

What are some of your idols that you have recently uncovered? How have they affected the way you worship God? Please, tell me what you think.

  • I am facing some food idols, that threaten my health. Gotta tear them down. 

  • Marla

    Hello Rhonda
    I think I am included in this post but please note that your reputation and character has A1 credit with me.  My comments have nothing to do with either your character or reputation.  They only challenge your point of view.  And it not because you are a Christian or on fire for the Lord.  There is no one way to be a Christian.  If it were, we would all act, look and think alike. 
    But I am baffled by this post claiming that one of your false idols is trying to explain yourself to others.  First, it seems odd that if you thought explaining yourself was an idol that you would create a space (this blog) were you explain “your self”. 
    Additionally, are you explaining yourself or are you explaining your ideas and beliefs.  I think one is a sub group of the other but not equal to each other. 
    I just think you express very black and white views and life is not that simple.  I believe when we seek to simplify God and His word, we promote misconceptions.  Like the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, the author argues that the reason most Americans believe that the Civil War was offer slavery is because well meaning teachers tried to simplify history to make it consumable to students creating a misconception that has now become conventional wisdom. 
    I think in our efforts to understand the Lord despite His warning that our thoughts and ways are not His thoughts and ways, well meaning Christians oversimplify His message thereby creating a space that alienates, isolates and sometimes denigrates people. 
    I have an 8th grade student who was raped by her uncle who gave her herpes, gonorrhea, and syphllis.  She often bleeds from her rectum and she has to take HIV test  regularly to ensure she is not HIV+.  Now thank you for the Lord’s grace that she did not get pregnant but what if she had.  She spends more days in the school nurse’s office than in class.  She is a shell of herself.  She is angry and paranoid and her medical care is insufficient due to lack of insurance.  Now some might say, give the child up for adoption.  But what if the baby was HIV+ herself.  First, black children are adopted at alarmingly low rates and one who is HIV+, well you can image the adoption rate of children with these needs.  So now, a child who is a shell of herself has to deal with the mental anguish that she gave up a child.  Everyone who is confronted with such decisions will make different decisions.  Some will keep, others not, Some will  adopt and others not.
    My point is that this not about your character or reputation but instead about how easily you simplify the decisions that other people make is their lives. You can think this is about you but I keep saying this is not about you.  It is about if you are bringing less into the fold than you could.

  • Hi Marla,

    Some of your comments have clearly been about me and not just my thinking (i.e., I live in a bubble or your wondering if Martin Luther King were alive and this was the Civil Rights Movement would I be a part. I see those as attacks on my character not my thinking). But that aside, don’t think it curious when I speak of explaining myself as an idol. When I feel my character, not my ideas, have been attacked, I struggle with wanting to defend myself, not what I said but who I believe people see me as. This is not what I should be doing. God said he would be my defense so that’s what I’m speaking of.

    I didn’t respond to your last post because as I said in my email to you I didn’t know how much of your comment would add to the discussion and I found myself wanting to defend myself from what I saw as personal attacks. Since you brought up your student here I will respond on the matter of abortion resulting from rape or incest.

    My stomach dropped when you mentioned about the horrific thing done to your student and the scars, physically and emotionally, that she is going through. It is awful and I hurt for her. I won’t even speak about her uncle for the risk of judging him. It reminds me of women who I counsel in my church who are victims of rape, from strangers and family members. I have yet to counsel someone who has gotten pregnant from one of these situations and if they had I would tell them what I believe the Bible is clear on: that abortion is killing, but the choice would be theirs. I would not shun them if they decided to have an abortion. I would love them and counsel them through the trauma they are likely to experience a a result of the abortion. I just don’t believe that taking a life (abortion) because someone has damaged a life (a rape victim) will make the situation better for the victim. It seems that such a decision would add to her woes.

    You are right about me seeing a lot of things in black and white (not all like you intimate because I’m certain you haven’t read my posts or have forgotten the ones in which I wrestle personally in my own faith, thus the whole reason for this blog and my recovery-which waivers). I believe many of what we struggle with God makes plain. We, privileging our emotions and reputations and other things, can sometimes complicate what doesn’t have to be complicated. And just because I see something as black or white doesn’t mean I’m dismissing the pain and anguish that comes with choosing GOD’s best for us. And He does give us a choice. He just wants us to choose the life He has for us.

    Recently I’ve come to really wrestle with my views on abortion. I say it should be legal so women have a choice. In the Bible even God set before His people life and death and let them decide what to choose (Deuteronomy 30:19). But then I think of other laws on the books that deal with morally that are rooted in religion and are clearly universal morals, like murder and stealing, but people still have a right to choose to steal and murder, even with laws on the books. I know people see abortion as different because they believe it’s a woman’s body and she’s not bringing harm outside of herself. The child in the womb is where we differ, some not seeing this as a child but a glob of tissue. Anyway, I wrestle. Everything is not so black and white with me though you seem to think so.

    Like how you correctly stated that there is no one way to be a Christian (though God has clear commands we should all follow), there is no one way to minister to people; No one’s ministry is the same, not the message, the methods, the tone. I always ponder what you say, ask God to help me stand firm on my convictions and to bring those into the fold that He has assigned for me. I am open to change if He tells me (even through people, including you) that I need to make changes to effect change in the lives of those He has called me to.

  • Marla

    (i.e., I live in a bubble or your wondering if Martin Luther King were alive and this was the Civil Rights Movement would I be a part. I see those as attacks on my character not my thinking).

    I think these examples support my assertions.  Living is a bubble is a reference to you only taking in information from a very limited point of view.  It is akin to right-wingers only getting their news from FOX News.  They only take in information that supports but not challenge their views (ideas and beliefs).  Not character or reputation.  My questioning if you would have participated in the civil rights movements with your views at the time of the posting is again not about character or reputation.  Many men and women of good will and character did not participate in the civil rights movement.  In fact, most people, black or white, did not participate.  So both of these examples are about your ideas and beliefs not your character or reputation.

    I just don’t believe that taking a life (abortion) because someone has damaged a life (a rape victim) will make the situation better for the victim. It seems that such a decision would add to her woes.

    Now this statement again supports my assertion.  The fact that you do not think that the constant reminder of her victimization (the presence of a baby) might be equally or in some cases more woeful that having an abortion is troubling.  I could understand if you said that the Bible calls for her to keep the child and while keeping the child will cause her great woe, but the Lord will provide her comfort.  But to not acknowledge the possiblity that keeping the child might cause her greater woeness than aborting the baby is not only insensitive but an oversimplication of the Word of God.  God does not promise that following his command will cause us to experience less woe.  He promises that He will not forsake us during that woe.

    It is misleading to suggest otherwise.  I know you believe that every woman that aborts a fetus experiences great woe.  But that is not the case, some experience great relief.  Many women who carry and raise children experience greater woe than women who made a different decision.  In fact, a recent study suggested that non parents are happier than parents.  But while being a parent might bring more woes or stress in your life, no one would argue don’t be a parent because it will reduce your level of woe. 

    But then I think of other laws on the books that deal with morally that are rooted in religion and are clearly universal morals, like murder and stealing, but people still have a right to choose to steal and murder, even with laws on the books.

    Finally, the laws on the books about killing and stealing are universal laws outlining morality but the fact that they are universal means that they trascend religion.  With all the religions, cultures and societies to come to the same agreement  – that it is not ok to kill and steal – speak to the fact that they can’t be based on religion because no one religion completelty dominates the Earth.  This proves that they are not birth out religion but mans logic that to organize and sustain society, you can’t have people killing and stealing from each with out consequence. Attributing things to religion that clearly aren’t is an oversimplification of both history and religion.  Just like I use to think that all the founding fathers were Christian.  Then I grew to think they were either Christian or at least deist.  Now after more of their writings, I found that some were Christians, other deists but many were theistic rationalist. They accept parts of the Bible as divinely inspired, using reason as their criterion for what to accept or reject.  If you come to understand this, you realize that the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation, and by implication, our founders accepted all the tenets of the Bible, falls on its face.  In fact, they outright rejected many of them.  Btw, people don’t have the right to kill or steal, if they did, people would not be incarcerated for these crimes and in fact they would not be called crimes at all.

  • We have to agree to disagree on the character/reputation v. ideas piece. You assume and have for years that I only take in information from one source. That is counter to my view and my training to do so. For the record, I abhor Fox News but tune in occasionally so I know what extreme right wingers are saying.

    Please, stop generalizing my statements. I said that some women may experience woe. Of course I wouldn’t say the Bible says you have to keep your baby but I believe the nature of abortion is killing and the Bible says not to kill. I will always tell people the choice is theirs but would never advise someone to abort. I could never do that and can’t see how not advising someone to get an abortion is insensitive. I believe when we come up with our solutions we do so for what will make us feel better. Like I said and you said, God doesn’t promise that living for him will take away our woes but he will help us get through them.

    You keep saying how I simplify the Bible. Please share with me some of the complexities from the Bible that I have failed to consider as it relates to the issues we’ve discussed.

    Now as it relates to the crimes, what you said is what I’m saying along with this: I don’t see abortion as being akin to killing not just a Christian idea.

    And again you assume that my argument is that our founding fathers were Christian, built this country on Christian principles so we have to continue down that road. I’m not studied in this area so I have not ever made that claim. You assume that’s my argument because you put me in the conservative box with others who make those claims. Please, stop making assumptions about my beliefs without asking me or fully taking in my views. You can only get so much from the few subjects you tend to follow on my blog.

  • Your asumptions about my beliefs are an assumption about my character. You can only assume something based on what you believe their character would dictate.

  • Marla

    I only respond when I disagree when I agree I say nothing.  So I don’t just follow a few topics.  I do not agree that this country was founded on Christian principles.  How does the economic system of capitalism support Christianity.  I would argue it is the antithesis.  But even if this country were founded on Christian principles, I don’t agree that we have to continue down that road.

    My argument is that this country was not founded on Christianity in theory or practice.  First, in theory – the constitution says freedom of religion and the US Supreme Court has said that the goverment can not advance or abridge any religion.  They did not single this out to Christianity.  It must remain neutral on the question of religion.

    In practice, whether you take the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes, this country falls short on almost each tenet.   So it hard to see Christianity as central to the decisions of the government.

    Here is my bottom line – the bible is clear on abortion and homosexuality, they are sins. But the government has no right to prohibit either based on a religious argument in a country that is mandated to be religious neutral.  So there should be no laws regarding abortion, especially during the period where a fetus is unable to live alone outside the womb.  There should be no laws against homosexual marriage.  Churches can say not in my church will I marry a gay couple but a judge conducting a civil ceremony should marry gay couples.  The judge is an instrument of the state and the state says it can not advance or abridge the rights of its citizens, gay or straight, women or men.