1 Corinthians 10:14. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
Back in 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul told us to flee sexual immorality. Do you remember his argument? Because we are one in spirit with Christ, and because we are the body of Christ, when we participate in sexual immorality we bring Christ into that same relationship. Our bodies are an expression of Christ. Our spirit is the Spirit of Christ. We were purchased by Christ for the glory of God. We are the temple dwelling of God. Therefore, there is no casual sex.
And there is no casual worship.
Just as our union with Christ logically forbids our union with a prostitute (or any sexual immorality), so too our union with Christ forbids our union with an idol.
Do not be fooled. Yes the idol itself is nothing (see 8:4). But there is a spiritual power behind the idol. It is a demonic power. It is the power of the Enemy who seeks to draw you away from faith in your union with Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:18-20. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
This is why Paul says “run away, fast and far.” There are spiritual forces at work that want to destroy you and me, and the church. Therefore, we must continuously be running from this danger.
So Paul’s question is, “Should someone who is united to Christ spiritually also be united to demons spiritually?” Jesus’ love, but also his authority, demand loyalty to him alone. Oh and by the way, let the Israelites be an example to you. When they tried to worship Yahweh alongside other gods, their hearts were divided and their kingdom collapsed.
So what about us today? What idolatry are we meant to flee? The idols of sex? Money? Power? What about family or friends? What about your morality or law keeping? Maybe your victimhood or anxiety? Your introversion or your extroversion? Your christian nationalism or politics? Education? Looks? Brains? Authority? Control?
An idol is anything that takes God’s place in our heart and affections. It’s anything we look to above Christ for our self-justification, self-identity, and self-actualization. They are often good things that we make into ultimate things.
In Paul’s day these idols had names and big temples. Today we keep them nameless and hidden from plain sight. We don’t speak of our idols. In fact, most of us can’t even identify what our idols are because we are so spiritual blinded by them.
Your idol’s temple is you. The cella (inner room where the idol sat) is deep in your desires and motivations, and wrapped up in your hurts and insecurities. But Jesus is already occupying the cella of your life by the Holy Spirit (6:19). When we casually worship all of these other things, we are serving two masters at once. But union with Christ simply will not allow this to continue. Christ will have his place. He will fight for your heart. He will forceably bind and remove the strong man and then plunder his house (Mark 3:22-27). In fact, he already has. And he will continue to battle for what he has purchased by his own blood.
The demons behind your idols are real. And they really are defeated. But not fully and not yet. That day is coming. Until that great day “to live is Christ” means that we cannot participate or fellowship (koinonia) with both demons and Christ in the cella of our heart. So flee idolatry. Run. Do not argue with it, examine it, weigh it, or play with it. It’s a disease. It’s a strong man seeking to destroy you. But take heart. Christ is stronger still. He has bound you in grace and forgiveness and perfect love. Submit to it and be free.
Can you identity the idols of your heart? Of your culture’s heart? In what part of your life do you need to run away from an idol? Can you see how good things can become ultimate things that seek to replace Christ in your affections and identity? How can union with Christ allow you to flee idolatry today? How can his perfect love make these lesser “gods” melt away in your heart?