Icon or Idol, What Does It Matter?

We were reminded this week of the uncertainty of life and how fragile life is. While it is sad to consider anyone’s sudden and catastrophic death, the unfortunate fate of the 9 persons who died in last Sunday’s helicopter crash redirects our attention to the unknown timing of death itself. Much attention continues to be paid to the “one of nine” who in life reached celebrity status in the world of athletic entertainment. For days it was almost all one would see or hear from national media. To be honest, all of this focus left me a little unsettled. Let me be clear to say I am saddened by these deaths, all of them, and what they mean to grieving families.

The words icon and idol were generously used in the news reporting, so much so that I went to “Webster” to clarify their definitions and possible distinctions. An icon is a person or thing that is worthy of veneration. Back to Webster for clarity, veneration being great respect or reverence. Similarly, an idol is a person greatly admired, loved or revered. It’s obvious from the news that Kobe Bryant was at least an idol to many. The reverence part is still a bit hard for me to process and that’s likely due to my association of reverence to a spiritual context.

Such thinking led me further to consider what people in general deem important. Indeed, what I deem important. The fame and attention paid to men and women for what they accomplish in their lifetime may still be well remembered for 20 years, but the awe, luster and awareness and even the recognition itself always fades over time and in 100 years many newer idols and icons have supplanted those earlier memories.  Scripture reminds us in James 4 “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

It gives me pause to think of Christian notables who honored God through service such as Jim Elliot, Mother Teresa and even more recently, Billy Graham. Certainly their lives demonstrated a “richness towards God.”(Luke 12:21)  I am glad they were celebrated for their faithfulness and service, but in due time the memories of their sacrifices and service to God will gather dust everywhere except in the memory of God. It gives me pleasure to think of those I know about and know personally who with what giftedness and resources God has afforded them, continue to prove faithful in their joyful service. I have a great fondness for those whose deeds are performed “under the radar,” concerned only that they rise to the opportunities God has provided them as they “store up treasures in heaven.” Unsung, I suppose, but to God they are heroes nonetheless and in truth they are “sung,” not “unsung.”

Mainly, I am left with this to consider. What is important in this life? What is within my reach, abilities and opportunities that I might engage in that will have eternal value? The answer necessarily has to do with people. Looking at Jesus’ life and the scriptural imperatives to be transformed into His image and likeness, my value to God is greatly influenced by my personal interaction with others who need his salvation, who need his compassionate touch, and who need to see his likeness. For all of these things, personal engagement and to some degree, selflessness are essential. Think About It.