Our idols aren't merely personal and private - they impact others. In other words, even though it is necessary to address those areas in our life that serve as counterfeit gods, their impact isn't merely personal and private - it affects the people around us. It affects those in our family. It affects those within our churches. It affects those who we lead or work with.
Mentioned in one of my previous sermons on this issue were two quotes about the impact of our idolatry upon others:
N. T. Wright in Surprised By Hope (HarperOne, 2008):
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. (p. 182)In other words, idolatry—while at root a heart issue—not only affects the sinner but also the community. Idols dehumanize the heart and cause us to act inhumanely towards others.
This idol-projecting point is also made Mark Driscoll’s book Doctrine (Crossway, 2010):
If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches. This explains the great polarities and acrimonies that plague every society. If something other than God’s loving grace is the source of our identity and value, we must invariably defend our idol by treating everyone and everything who may call our idol into question as an enemy to be demonized so that we can feel superior to other people and safe with our idol. (350-351)The call for all Christians, but especially pastors and ministry leaders is to quickly identify and apply the gospel to our idolatry. Because failure to do will have a grave impact on the churches we pastor and the people we shepherd. Our idolatry isn't merely personal, it affects and impacts others.