By Ben Baumann
A while back I got to go see a couple of speakers I love because they always get me thinking deeply about spiritual matters. It fascinates me to think on the things of God. One of the speakers said something about pursuing things or idols—that caught my attention. He said that the pursuing of what you want (your idol) is depression and the attaining of it is melancholy. As this thought sank in I began to see my self-focused pursuit of my own idols, and I started to ask myself how I might give up that pursuit. I didn’t realize it in the moment, but looking back, I could see that the Gospel was confronting my idolatry.
Acts 19:23-41 shares a story about the Gospel doing exactly that. Paul and his companions are spreading the good news throughout Ephesus, and as they do so the people there are beginning to turn away from their own idols—namely Artemis, the goddess of fertility (among other things). And there is conflict, as often happens when our idols are challenged. There’s even a riot that begins when the craftsmen see that they are losing income because no one is buying Artemis figures anymore.
When the Gospel confronts our own idolatry, it can stir up all sorts of emotions in us. Some of these emotions see the harmful reality of holding on to our idols, while other emotions convince us that these idols are necessary to our sustenance. The great lie of idols is like that speaker said: If you don’t have it, you will be depressed, but even when you finally attain your idol, the return on investment diminishes quickly and you find that it will never fill the deeper need in you.
I believe the Gospel of renewal that we see in the life of Christ is the good news that frees us from the pursuit of things—we drop our idols at the cross and find our needs filled by what God has already given. When that Gospel confronts our idolatry, we may want to fight it at first, but if we lean into it and give up the pursuit, we will find freedom to love in this world as Christ loved.
May you find freedom in giving up the pursuit.