Cults of Personality

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, Judges 8:22-35, Acts 4:1-12, John 1:43-51


Poor Gideon. He was a poor farm boy from a poor clan and had no desire to lead Israel, but God the Father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. After Gideon – with the Lord’s help – led the Israelites into a miraculous victory over the oppressive Midianites, his people asked him (and his son and grandson) to rule over them. Gideon replied: “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” Instead he fashioned an ephod (priestly garment) from the golden earrings which had been worn by the Midianites and become spoils of war. Scripture tells us the Israelites made an idol of this ephod, and flocked to it as if they were chasing after a prostitute. It was the ruin of Gideon’s family.

It’s quite telling how easily the people settled for an idol instead of a leader as though they were equivalent. How little we’ve changed. Many churches build entire identities around the charisma of a specific minister. Millions of people hang on every word from celebrity preachers and cite their books and sermons like gospel. Citizens surrender their individual identities under banners and deafening chants of a candidate’s name. At least Gideon had the sense to say “don’t follow me – follow God.” When humble Gideon made a huge error in judgment, the people worshiped the error to the exclusion of God. When we turn a person into an idol not only are we prone to overlook their flaws, we are prone to double-down and spin those flaws into virtues.

We belong not to a single pastor or congregation, but to the Body of Christ. We owe our primary allegiance not to a candidate, a party, or even a nation, but to the Kingdom of Heaven. We must not turn anyone into an idol who warps our faith; rather we must measure all would-be idols against the standards set by Christ. Idols – whether graven or human – eventually betray us. We may out of necessity follow a Gideon into battle, but only Christ leads us to eternal life.

Comfort: Christ is our spiritual north star.

Challenge: Meditate on the people and institutions you follow; how critical of them are you?

Prayer: Loving and all powerful God, I am faithful to you above all others. Amen.

Discussion: Without tearing apart someone’s character, when have you been disappointed in someone you trusted as a leader?

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