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Toppling Statues That Honor Past Mistakes: Learning to Let Go
WARNING: This post will be political.
Today’s current events provide a good analogy to kingdom living. In God’s Old Testament kingdom, his people often went astray and worshiped false gods, even constructing altars and Asherah poles to them. They allowed pagan statues to infiltrate their land. Far too infrequently, a “good” king would be born to the throne, and he would remove these memorials honoring pagan deities.
2 Kings 11:17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD’s people, and also between the king and the people. 18 Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD. (ESV)
2 Kings 23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. (ESV)
In our personal lives, Christians can also fall prey to the deceitfulness of worshipping false gods, even erecting idols to them. My idol of worship might be that shiny and fashionable new car I didn’t really need to buy, or perhaps my overly expensive home in a ritzy neighborhood. Perhaps my idol is my personal appearance, as represented by my $300 hairdo. Because God loves us and is jealous over us, he often calls Christians to remove idols from our lives, perhaps by means of a job loss or even an illness. We should not complain when God removes the memorials to false gods we worship.
Just as Israel erected memorials to pagan deities, modern nations can erect statues to false idols. Slavery in America was a wicked institution. The United States is experiencing a period of repentance for current and past evils. Part of this repentance is the awareness of offense that certain statues and symbols honoring the cruel institution of slavery cause for many American citizens. These are citizens of color whose ancestors suffered greatly under this peculiarly American form of idolatry.
In ancient Israel, God periodically demanded that idols to false gods be torn down before he began a new period of blessing. Here in America, Christians from several generations have been praying whole lifetimes for revival. Historical revivals among God’s people frequently began with deep contrition and repentance. Should we complain, then, when national repentance targets our favorite statues that remind the children of the victims of historical evils of their humiliation, injustice, and pain? Should we protect these false idols, these memorials to injustice? Or should we thank God for the opportunity he provides to start fresh, to write a new history, to erect new statues, which over time will celebrate a better future? On which side of the debate does God’s heart of compassion for the poor and needy lie? What matters most to me–obedience to God’s love or getting my own political way? After all, what great significance can a stone or brass statue have to a child of the living, eternal God? Where do I place my hope–in that statue or in Christ?