When Jesus Becomes An Idol

In Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone

Wait, What? Jesus an idol?

For all you music lovers, No, I’m not talking about an American Idol (speaking of, don’t get me started on Pia Toscano’s untimely exit).

Jesus and American Idol. Ha. What would that be like? I wonder, could Jesus sing? Can you imagine Simon telling the Son of God, Creator of all things, He sounded karaoke or like a bad lounge singer? That He “shouldn’t quit his day job?” How might Jesus respond. Would he call the “heavenly hosts” that sang to the shepherds at birth? Or maybe he’d  blow them away” like he did that band of men in John18:6 — send Simon (or nowadays JLo, STyler, and RJ) flying backward with a sudden gust of wind.

Ah, the possibilities.

I digress.

Do you think Jesus could become an idol?

For, I don’t know, the last decade or so, there’s been change in the horizon, a rumbling in the way the world (or at least many an American) defines the cross-section of their life with Jesus’ life.  Check the research and you’ll find people don’t have a problem with Jesus. Our society likes what He taught, what He stood for, and the way He lived. So much so, more and more are willing to model their lives after His’ life and principles – His charity, His love, His respect for the everyman and the “least of these.”

Sounds great! At least on the surface. Following Jesus’ pattern for life is a large part of what being a Christian is about.

But our enemy is crafty, seeking any advantage to exploit. And the danger here is so subtle, so feel-good, we will likely miss it.

The other day I heard a discussion about the “emergent church” and I caught wind of a statement declaring people of all religions could find God through following Jesus’ model of living. That is to say, regardless of the God you serve, your ability to love your neighbor as yourself (which, in doing means you are loving God, whatever his name might be in your religion) then heaven’s gates await.

[pullquote2 align=”right” variation=”mossgreen”]In essence, many have, perhaps without realizing, placed ideals like morality, philanthropy, charity, and general goodwill on the right hand of God’s throne in place of the Suffering Lamb and the saving power of the cross.[/pullquote2] There’s a bunch I disagree with there. But the core from where all my disagreement stems is the idea of Jesus’ life being key to “salvation” (a term I disdain more and more by the day).

Here is where we need to watch our steps. We must be careful not to construct an immaterial graven image of Jesus’ works. An idol to bow down to, to put our faith in, in lieu of the grand moment of God’s love on the cross. It seems the number of people willing to put the cross aside, to relegate it to second place in the order of importance, is increasing at an alarming rate.

To serve Jesus’ life without proper regard to the meaning of his death is to make Him a role model, not a savior. To accept that Jesus carved a way of life we should emulate without realizing the power source of such a life – the Holy Spirit – is to place the fate of our eternity in our own hands. Which, by the way, is what placed us in our current predicament. In essence, many have, perhaps without realizing, placed ideals like morality, philanthropy, charity, and general goodwill on the right hand of God’s throne in place of the Suffering Lamb and the saving power of the cross.

This is fallacy!

And do not follow the extreme reactions of the current day and start to think I am saying life here and now does not matter.  That is not at all what I am saying. But I am saying that Jesus’ death means far more than Jesus’ life.  I serve God, and have understood the Love of God, because of the amazingly bittersweet nature of Christ’s death. His life, inspired and perfected as it was, comes after that.

Should we reverse these roles, and allow the cross to play second fiddle, we will open up a works-based theology that, while on the surface feels good, will remove the need for Christ and cut the power cords of the cross.  We don’t need Jesus for philanthropy and charity. Look around, Christians are the only ones “with a heart” for the poor and needy. We’re all capable of charity. We do need Jesus for a relationship with God! A relationship we are made to engage in.

Don’t idolize the life of Christ. Following Christ comes after Faith in Christ. Let’s not get it twisted.


Do you think that it’s possible to idolize Jesus?  Explain.

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.