Most will be aware of the political and religious controversy surrounding the former Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron. Farron, an evangelical Christian, was, in 2017, repeatedly questioned by journalists about whether or not he believed gay sex was a sin. He eventually answered that it was not, but then realised that he had effectively denied his faith. He resigned.
I’ve seen some negative publicity in Christian circles now that Farron has reversed his original statement. However, I sympathise with him. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. Farron learned, the difficult way, that Christians cannot reason with, or hope for any understanding from, an increasingly hostile world, let alone the secular press. His experience proves that light has nothing in common with darkness and that Christians should be in the world but not of it.
When I first heard Farron’s recantation, I thought immediately of the disciple Peter’s denial of Jesus. Was this not a similar situation? Peter, on repentance, was offered immediate and complete forgiveness by Jesus.
I’m convinced that, given the right circumstances, any one of us could end up in the same position and succumb to the temptation to deny what we believe. Surely, that’s the point of the Bible story: If Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, could deny Him, having been warned, what hope is there for us in our frailty and weakness?
As fellow Christians, we can learn from Farron’s very public fall from grace by considering what we are living for. It’s easy to say we are living for God and that He is our number one priority, until it costs us something. We are increasingly attached to the world with God tagged on to the edge of our lives.
In the Bible, idols were made of wood and stone, it was easy to see when the people departed from God to worship them. Now, there is a lot of talk about idols of the heart but we still tend to think of idols in terms of relationships and people. The truth is that anything can become an idol if it stands between us and God or if it gets in the way of that most important relationship. This includes things that may be beneficial, if they become an obsession or are taken to an extreme.
In a previous post, I mentioned things that were likely to become idols for non-believers (and some believers) at Christmas; money, food, gifts, sex, alcohol etc. These are the obvious, tangible things, but what about the things that are not so visible that we covet or that grip our hearts.
How we spend our time; what we do and the things we spend time thinking about. Our use of time is a good indicator of where our priorities lie because we make time for the things that are important to us.
I end up in a lot of discussions about the content of Christian books due to being an avid reader and book reviewer. Christian authors are increasingly compromising their standards in order to appeal to a secular audience, or even a Christian audience that has lost its way. Their arguments usually begin with the need to make books more real for an authentic reading experience.
Readers rally around to support them because their sinful nature is attracted to the graphic details. Is it not the truth, though, that rather than trusting God for their success, these authors are choosing popularity and ambition over Him? They are forgetting that God honours those who honour Him and that we should not love the world or anything in the world. Success has become an idol.
Are we, as Christians, any different from our non-believing neighbours and friends? Does God and His plan for our lives take centre stage, or have the things of the world crept in and crowded Him out? Do we care about our lost friends and neighbours, or are we preoccupied with worldly matters? Have we grown cold and lost our first love?
Perhaps, it will take a Tim Farron experience to wake Christians up. When everything you have worked for and dreamed of is in one hand and your faith in God is in the other. Then, suddenly, you are confronted with the startling reality that the two things you are holding onto are incompatible and you are forced to make a choice. Which will it be: idols of any kind or God?
Farron was forced to count the cost of following Jesus, and having ventured down a path, seemingly of no return, he faced up to his failure and dealt with his sin. Remembering what, and Who, he was meant to be living for, he chose Jesus over his career and reputation.
He revealed something of the struggle that had been raging in his soul when he quoted martyr Jim Elliot,
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Earthly idols in all their forms will one day be swept away. Let’s pray that we will each put God on the throne of our lives and cast out any idols lurking there. Then, we will be able to say with confidence that we are living for Him.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
1 John 2 vs 15-17
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
Revelation 2 vs 4 (to the church in Ephesus)
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
Philippians 3 vs 18-19