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Law and Pleasure: Gifts from and Paths to God, but Not God.

The perceived conflict between body and spirit precedes Christianity and has alternately been absorbed and rejected by both Christian and non-Christian cultures over thousands of years. Generally, humanity goes from one extreme to the other by simply reacting, rather than responding, to excesses. This is a human evolutionary issue, not limited to Christianity. We just live in a society where reactionary Christians are the loudest right now.
Idols are subtle issues and vary between making an idol of the Law to making an idol of Pleasure by simply making one of them THE priority without taking into account the resulting human suffering this causes.
Both Law and Pleasure are gifts from God and both can be paths to God, but they are NOT God.
When we make Law into a God without any allowance for preventing brutality to other human beings, we defeat the purpose of law. Law is simply the beginning stage of logic and love. To live together humanely, we need laws. The minimum of loving others is to not kill, rob or use them for our own purposes.
As those humans inclined to consider future possibilities have evolved, they have challenged the rest of humanity to value not only pleasure and propagation, but relationships between humans: from mates, to parents and children, to families, to tribes, to nations, to hemispheres, to the world, to the natural world, and now, the universe. Humanity, however, does not mature easily or smoothly, but progresses in extreme zig-zags between ideal goals and present practical realities. Unfortunately, there are seldom any serious attempts to balance or blend the two.
Our concept of love has evolved from don’t kill or rob each other, to love others as you love yourself, and hopefully, we are finally beginning to recognize that when Jesus gave his life for us, he was both illustrating and calling us to whole new level of love. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
This brings us to the challenge to integrate body and spirit. Limiting ourselves to body ends up in hedonism, making pleasure an idol. Limiting ourselves to spirit ends up in an unrealistic asceticism that makes law an idol. Recognizing that we separate body and spirit at our own peril, we can find that when blended they both become paths to God/Love. Being loved by a human being is our appetizer, our small taste of the Spirit of Love that is God. Only when we integrate the two, do we avoid the pitfalls of the idols of hedonism and asceticism and even begin to want to learn to love one another as God loves us.

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Christians, Beware of Christian Idols!

Fundamentalist Christians have to struggle not to make an idol of scripture.  Jesus is the Word of God.  Scripture is vitally important, because scripture introduces us to Jesus.  Jesus speaks to where individuals are and calls us to growth now, just as He did the people in the scriptures. He wasn’t adding more rules. The Jews had plenty of them. Our call is to an ongoing, deepening relationship with a living Savior who continues to show us the way of love that changes us. Though scriptures may be like letters from God about Jesus, they are not God, and He is not limited to them.  And Jesus himself, was sent to awaken us to God’s Spirit within us and all around us.

Catholics have to struggle to not make an idol of the structure of the church.  Again, Jesus is the Word of God to each of us.  The spirit of God grows in us through a personal relationship with Jesus.  The church can be a safe place of nurture with its rich tradition of spirituality, but ultimately we are  personally accountable for growing in our relationship to God through Jesus, the Way of love.  The Church may be our mother, but it is not God, and God is not limited to it.

Liberal Protestants tend to idolize ideals for our physical world and being. Which once again,  are good things, and part of our call to stewardship, but are not God or our ultimate reason for being, because physical life is not all there is, either now or forever.  Humbling though it may be, it is not about our intellectual ideals for this life.  It’s about recognizing our incompleteness and accepting the call to a growing relationship with God through the human expression of both His love and the spirituality that He is calling us to, Jesus.

The Scriptures and the commandments; the church and its traditions of spirituality; caring for the physical well being of others and our world, are all good and absolutely vital parts of Christianity, but none of them is God.  None of them are a substitute for a personal relationship with God, which for Christians is given life and nurtured by our relationship with Jesus who is the love of God fleshed out for us.

Out of that relationship can flow a love for scripture, a love for the spirituality of the church, a love for all creation and all humanity and a valuing of all of these and appreciation for those whom God calls to ministry in each area.  It is not one or the other.  There is one God, but many gifts and ministries.

When we only value one aspect of the kingdom of God, we have turned a good thing into an idol.

Jesus, Himself, was sent to lead us to God, not just to Himself. His love, laying down his life for us, is the Way to God.   He was taken away, so that we too would be filled with and led by God’s Spirit. And God’s Spirit is love, love for all His creation and all His creatures.  And the world will know that we are His by our growth in love, a love that lays down its life for others.

Anything else is an idol.