Six contestants left for America’s new idol.

Six contestants left for America’s new idol.  How’s that for a headline this week?  As the Today Show on NBC ran a report of the elimination countdown to American’s new “number one” amateur performer, the screen caption throughout the report blazed, “Idol Worship.”  How clever, but how true!  Except for you and me, of course.

I’ve been blessed teaching nineteen young seminarian preachers this semester.  One of the students, Shawn Brace, was assigned the second commandment, God’s prohibition against idol worship (see Exodus 20:4-6).   He did some research on previous contestants on Fox’s American Idol telecast (which, for those who don’t know, is an old-fashioned amateur hour that’s dictated by the millions of viewer votes that are electronically cast each week, slowly eliminating the contestants).  Shawn discovered that one year in the top tier of contenders, each was asked to name his personal “idol” (a hero, a role model, someone idolized).  One contestant was candidly honest in his written reply:  “Myself.”  His number one hero . . . himself.

Surprised?  Probably not.  After all we live in a society bent back onto itself in self-admiration, don’t we?  Driven by Madison Avenue and an entertainment and sports world where stars unabashedly self-promote, it seems only natural that we do the same, doesn’t it? Which, of course, has been the modus operandi on this planet from the beginning—look out for Numero Uno—as Adam and Eve and Cain and all our forefathers and foremothers have unsubtly taught us.  It was the original sin, after all, that brought down Lucifer and his loyal rebels.  Self-worship—making an idol out of “myself.”

That’s why the story of Jesus is so radical and hope-filled.  Because the God of the universe become Man entered our mortal stream of existence to dramatically, humbly show us the other way.  The way of the God who ever defers to others, who “made himself of no reputation and humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:5-8).  Who died to the very self that is so ragingly strong in you and me.  And who now beckons us, “If you would come after Me, deny yourself, and take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

The perfect invitation for the ending of this school year.  Because there’s a world waiting to be conquered—not for “myself” but for our Savior.  Who, of course, isn’t an idol at all, but is the greatest Hero of all.  Which is how I wish that young contestant had answered,  since—as it turns out—he grew up in the church I did.