When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted (in their local dialect, of course), “These men are gods in human bodies!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Jupiter, and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Mercury! The local priest of the Temple of Jupiter, located on the outskirts of the city, brought them cartloads of flowers and prepared to sacrifice oxen to them at the city gates before the crowds.
But when Barnabas and Paul saw what was happening, they ripped at their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Men! What are you doing? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you are invited to turn from the worship of these foolish things and to pray instead to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. Acts 14:11-15 (Living Bible)
The problem with idols is that they keep letting us down. We have a need, it seems, to place people on a pedestal, then gradually, or sometimes abruptly, those idols begin to show their weaknesses. We have a need for heroic actions, and indeed, there are many, many heroes among us. Often, heroic acts are unseen or unnoted, and those heroes do not get the adulation they might deserve. Other heroic figures, our very public figures, are praised and even idolized. Statues are made, poems are written, portraits made, etc. It seems that we have a need to find these figures and recognize them.
Then, over time, we see the flaws in character. We see the failures, the duplicity, the mistakes, the compromise. We may judge, from a historical perspective, that they were flawed people, and not deserving of that statue. Truly, if only perfect people got statues, we would have no statues.
We have our “Mt. Rushmore” of heroes from all walks of life. Sports shows sometimes ask, “Name your Mt. Rushmore of baseball”, or basketball, or whatever sport. People are challenged to name the top four or five in their sport who deserve a place on the “Mt. Rushmore” of that sport.
The original Mt. Rushmore has four distinguished Presidents- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. These men are venerated on the side of a mountain for heaven’s sake, and highly praiseworthy all, yet all had character defects.
So, we need perspective on our “idols”. Let’s remember that every idol has flaws. That just makes them human.
Prayer: You have made us in your image, and worthy of respect, all of us. Help us when we do not show respect to all your creation, Amen.