“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21
There’s a saying that goes something like this, “Old habits die hard.”
There’s actually a number of reasons why it’s difficult to kick old habits. There’s great comfort, even pleasure, in the familiar. There’s a great deal of security in sticking to what’s known and, therefore, predictable. And it’s just easier to do what we’ve always been accustomed to doing.
Scientists have actually viewed the neural pathways of the brain using a scanning electron microscope and they’ve observed that those neural paths that are most used are actually bigger that the ones that are seldom used and they also saw that the nerve signals traveling down these paths were stronger and moved more quickly than those traveling the smaller paths. These larger, stronger, faster paths are the routes of our habits.
The first century Christian Church lived in a world that was filled with the worship of idols. Many of the Christian believers, of a gentile background, had grown up in families where idol worship was a daily experience.
But even those of Jewish heritage were not immune to the lure of idols. From the time they’d left the land of Egypt the children of Israel demonstrated that they too were attracted to the rites, ceremonies, and beliefs of the worship of false gods. Repeatedly, and often dramatically, God had had to rescue and turn his people away from idols and back to himself.
Knowing the seductive power of idols and, perhaps, recognizing the difficulty of abandoning established habits, John ends his letter to the Christian Church with an admonition to guard themselves from idols.
But it’s not just believers from two thousand years ago that need the warning. I’ve noticed that people are still attracted to images and icons in worship. Non Christian religions still use them and even a few religions that call themselves Christian employ the use of images for more than merely decorative purposes.
But it’s not just the religious idols we need to guard against; even secular practices can achieve an influence in our lives that rivals our relationship with God. Whether sports, politics, entertainment, work, or hobbies, anything can be used by the devil to draw us away from an intimate connection with God.
John’s made it very clear, in the five short chapters of his letter, that it’s this connection, found only in our relationship with God, that is eternal life to us. To guard it is to guard your life.
“My little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”