The third week of the study we're doing in Kyle Idleman's series, Gods at War, is titled "Love." It focused on the practice of putting other people into a position where you expect them to fulfill and complete you, to be the lover for you that God alone can be.
While the lesson was titled "Love," it really came down to significance and meaning. The video for the week, as well as many of the questions, leaned heavily on the way people use love and its trappings to find value and significance in their lives. Where last week's idol was built up by our desire to find comfort and peace in this life, this week feeds on the desire to give this life meaning.
But, as we discussed in the group and was touched on in the leader's guide, we don't search for love in just one way. All forms of love can fall subject to this idol. Family relationships, friendships, romantic partners, strictly sexual partners, and any other place where we seek to fill this need for companionship can fall into the trap of expecting the other party to define our lives and our worth. I can assure you I have even known people with a love for their pets that may have been idolatrous in this way.
Where the idols of pleasure are insidious because they seem to work, the idols of love are insidious because they don't. See, they don't fail us in a way that makes us realize they aren't worthy of our affections; rather, empowered by our culture's push for particular flavors of romance, they fail us in ways that make us feel like we are unworthy of them. We look within ourselves for the flaws, the thing that made this pursuit not work, and punish ourselves and change ourselves and do everything we can in our own power to make ourselves worthy of our idol's attention.
I've personally watched this play out. The type of idol I have historically struggled with the most as been self (which looks like it'll be covered in a later lesson), and before meeting my wife I was engaged to someone who very much seemed to, in retrospect, fall into making an idol of us, or me, or at least some aspect of our relationship. And those two idols worked together really, really well. There were things going on with her that I wanted to help her with, and because of my idol that meant I needed to fix them for her, and it often came off as though I needed to fix her. While her view of me meant that she kept striving to be good enough for me, to get that feeling of value and affirmation from me, and she could never quite do good enough to get it, so she would try harder and push herself farther and I'm seeing that these things are destructive and expressing my desire to see her not hurt herself and she's just hearing that she's failing even worse and this was just a constant downward spiral that almost destroyed us both.
The thing is, we don't have to prove our worth to God, He isn't going to put us into that same trap of striving to show ourselves good enough to warrant His love. He just pours it out, freely. Going to the cross while we were still His enemies. Calling out for us while we were not yet seeking Him. It's important to recognize this because the idols of love have twisted it and make us miss the real benefits of confession. Confession, when done in a Biblical manner, isn't part of an abusive relationship where we need to be constantly reminded of how inferior we are so we can be beaten down and twisted into a state of constant pain and self-abuse and attempts to prove ourselves. Even a healthy marriage has issues sometimes, and communication about those issues that cause friction so they can be addressed and handled in a healthy way is necessary; and this is a more accurate picture of confession. We are identifying the places in our relationship with God where we are experiencing friction and distance and clearing the air, not to prove we are unworthy and grovel for a taste of acceptance, but because we have already been accepted unconditionally. It is an act of walking forward together in openness and honesty. It is not a means of gaining access to a deeper love from God but a practice born out of an existing access to the fullness of His love.
Abusive, and manipulative, and controlling idols of love have given us a false understanding of what it means to talk candidly about the things that hinder our walk. And works-based salvation models have made this problem worse. But if we will be vulnerable, and honest, before our God and our fellow members of the body, we can experience the freedom and relief that comes from a truly confessional life; marked not by a seeking after meaning and value in love, but by a comfortable recognition of the value we already have to the One who loved us first.
Church planter and ministry student with a bad habit of questioning authority and writing too much.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation