Friday, January 30, 2009
Warnings against idolatry
Be careful to obey all these words that I command you today, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.
When the Lord your God has cut off before you the nations whom you are about to enter to dispossess them, when you have dispossessed them and live in their land, take care that you are not snared into imitating them, after they have been destroyed before you: do not inquire concerning their gods, saying, "How did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same." You must not do the same for the Lord your God, because every abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. You must diligently observe everything that I command you; do not add to it or take anything from it.
Comment: As the people of Israel enter into the Promised Land they are warned not to commingle with the Canaanites and other peoples because they worship other gods. The most important issue was to remain true to the only God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. This kind of religious purity was and is still foremost to conservative and orthodox Judaism. Many of the religions of the Middle East called for the practice of religious prostitution and even child sacrifice. The ethics of the early Hebrews understood the sacredness of life and so religious pluralism was not permitted.
Today we are hearing these words in a new light. The call from God is not for racial purity or religious purity. The call from God is to an ethic of living with respect. I have often said I have more in common with a faithful Jew, Moslem or Hindu than I have with a lukewarm Christian, whose Christianity is based upon law and not the constantly revealing relationship with the God who loves all. In our 21st century, the ethic of respect must prevail if we are not going to factionalize into warring factions. Our Christianity must be willing to recognize that proselytizing among those who already know God in some way is disrespectful. My Hindu, Moslem, First Nation and Jewish friends have as much to teach me of the ways of the God who loves me, as my Christian friends do. It is when we can live with that confidence, then we do not need to impose our faith on others to feel secure.