Imagine this. You’ve been married for 23 years. You have a house, a dog, two cats, and three kids. You know your spouse like the back of your hand.
That’s why it hurts so much the day he says, “I’ve had an affair. Will you forgive me?”
You rant and you rave. You cry and obsess. But in the end, you decide to forgive him. You’ll stay in the marriage on one condition: we’re going to a counselor.
For once in his life, he agrees.
The day for counseling arrives, and you show up five minutes early. The counselor shows you into his office, and you spill your guts. He listens to you, sets down his pen, leans forward, and says,
“I think I have a solution. I want you to have another marriage ceremony. Maybe your husband didn’t really mean it when he committed to you the first time. Renew your vows and try to do better next time. That should do the trick.”
Sliding his chair away from his desk, he charges you a hundred bucks and shows you to the door.
Another Trip to the Altar
What would you think? Would you be happy with his solution? Would you agree that one little trip to the front of the church to repeat some vows would do the trick?
I think most of us would feel like we just wasted our money.
We’d want something more concrete than another trip to the altar. A list of things to do, perhaps: Go on dates. Communicate. Set boundaries. Pray together.
We could think of lots of ideas of ways to improve the marriage—and another trip to the altar wouldn’t be one of them.
The Altar Call
Yet one of the main responses to sin in the evangelical community is this: Walk to the front. Confess your sin. And try to do better.
No one says it, but it’s implied, “Maybe you really didn’t mean it the first time. Maybe that’s why you’re having all these problems with idolatry and sin.”
Here’s the problem with that approach: First, it implies that a commitment automatically produces transformation. This isn’t true. Romans 12:2 tells us we’re transformed by the renewing of the mind. Not by recommitting our lives to Christ.
Second, it implies that there’s something wrong with us if we feel like sinning and worshipping idols. Of course we feel like sinning. We’re sinners. Of course we feel like worshipping idols. That’s been happening since the beginning of time.
Love is an Action
The problem isn’t that we feel like sinning—it’s that we’re not doing anything about it. We’re sitting there waiting for God to change us because, after all, we went forward.
If we want to get rid of our idols and put God first in our lives, we need to work at it (Jeremiah 29:13). That doesn’t take away from grace—it merely shows our appreciation of grace.
A great relationship goes beyond commitment into loving each other on a day-to-day, situation-by-situation basis. God says to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
One of the ways we love Him well is to put some concerted effort into getting rid of our idols. These are the steps we’ll be talking about in future posts:
How to Break Free from Idolatry
Click on each of the steps below for a post on the subject.
- Identify your idol: take the “Do you have an idol?” quiz.
- Become convinced that your idol has to go.
- Make a commitment to:
- Set boundaries. (For another post on this topic, click here.)
- Renew your mind whenever you feel like breaking your boundaries.
- Get an accountability partner to hold you accountable to the renewing of your mind.
- Hope in God rather than in your idol. (The link on this one goes to a Bible study I posted long after I wrote this series that’s about hoping in God rather than in getting what you want, but it’s a Bible study that could also work for giving up your idol.)
If you’d like help with the renewing of the mind, here is another resource: The Renewing of the Mind Project (published 2/4/2015).
Question: How is idolatry like adultery? How is it different? How would you get over idolatry in a way that would be similar to getting over adultery?
Image courtesy of Timeless Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net