I was chatting with a friend last night online about the link between the prophets condemnation of idolatry and their abhorrence of social injustice. In the course of things I said to him, “If you think about it, idolatry is a failure to do justice to the beauty of God. From there, it bleeds out into a failure to do justice to the beauty of God’s Image-bearers.” The two phenomena are inseparable–eventually one leads to the other.
Reflecting on Elijah’s condemnation of Jezebel’s treachery against Naboth in pursuit of his property, Eugene Peterson puts some biblical heft to that principle:
When you have a god that is a thing, a god that you can use, an object, neighbors also become things, something to use, objects. With an impersonal god, you end up with an impersonal neighbor. Jezebel certainly did.
The champions of Baal, priests and queen alike, did not have an easy time of it with Elijah. On Mount Carmel Elijah championed Yahweh, the name of God; in the Valley Jezreel Elijah championed Naboth, the name of the neighbor. Elijah was as much a prophet in the valley as he was on the mountain. Elijah lived his life on the margins–marginal to the popular religion of the day, marginal to the power politics of the day. Because he lived on the margins he was unimpressed by what went on in the center: the impressive worship experience put on by the 450 priests of Baal on the mountain, the impressive demonstration of hubristic contempt of a neighbor by the patroness of Baal in the Valley. As it turned out, it was from the margins that Elijah re-centered the life of Israel both in worship of their God, Yahweh, and in respect for their neighbors.
–The Jesus Way, pg. 121
May we be a people who are unimpressed by the worship of the gods of this age–money, sex, power–and therefore impressed with the sacredness of our neighbors. When Money is not god, we will not make our neighbors commodities to be bandied about in of the pursuit of wealth. When Sexual Fulfillment is not god, we will not treat our neighbors as mere bodies to be used and consumed in of our pursuit of pleasure. When Power is not god, we will not treat our neighbors as pawns to be manipulated in our pursuit of power.
When the LORD is God, we will love our neighbor in our pursuit of giving glory to their Maker, in whose sacred Image they are formed.
Soli Deo Gloria