The Father’s Love: Reflections on Idolatry in South Asia

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It’s 6 am in this large urban city within South Asia, and I’ve been restlessly tossing and turning since 3 am. The relentless cacophony of honking horns, barking dogs, screaming men, and wailing idol worship isn’t the most peaceful of lullabies. But – I’m not quite sure if it’s the noise, the jet lag, or the anxious hurt in my heart that has kept me from sleeping. It’s probably a combination of all of those things. Regardless, I’m awake, drinking warm tea with the crisp, delicious shortbread cookies that everyone always seems to have in their hand here.

I arrived in Delhi yesterday and spent time sight-seeing, visiting different religious sites and seeking to better understand the culture. In so doing, my heart was burdened and convicted by what I witnessed.

“It’s difficult to understand such devotion to a god that must be woken up and fed – a god that was created by mere human hands, who makes no sound nor motion. And yet, isn’t this what we do? Worship the created things rather than the Creator?”

My friend and I visited a particular Hindu Temple, home to one of the many Hindu goddesses, Kali. When we entered, the rain was still coming down, spreading dirt all across the broken tile. I squirmed a bit as I removed my sandals and stepped onto the cold, wet ground. To get to the center of the temple, we wandered past countless booths where vendors sold treats and trinkets to be laid before the idols. We walked past the “untouchables” who crouched under the covering. I thought of Jesus, healing the lame, setting the captives free.

the snare of idol-worship

In an outer circle surrounding the inner place, the goddess – a cold, hard, statue of a face – blankly stared back at us.

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands…they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear,” (Psalm 135:15-17)

We entered into the center and people pressed in from every side. Men attempted to hand us objects for an offering. We declined and received confused looks. Loud gongs reverberated through the place – a sorry excuse of summons for the gods to awaken.

It’s difficult to understand such devotion to a god that must be woken up and fed – a god that was created by mere human hands, who makes no sound nor motion. And yet, isn’t this what we do? Worship the created things rather than the Creator?

Through a small opening, we could see a large group of women worshipping another idol. A woman furiously rolled her head around in circles, crouched on her hands and knees. Another woman mindlessly swayed along to the music, smiling and clapping her hands. There was a vacancy in her eyes.

“Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them…” (Psalm 135:18)

It seems foolish, doesn’t it? To worship a statue? Well, it is. It’s foolishness to worship anyone or anything other than God. But the truth is, I could have been that woman, blindly worshipping a false idol, giving of my time, money, and effort. In fact, I was that woman. My gods just took different forms and my worship of them was cleaned up to look like something better.

Money. Success. Reputation. Status. Personal Righteousness. Comfort. Food. Pleasure. The list could go on. We are idol-worshippers. The only difference is we’ve been graced with the opportunity to live in a place with full accessibility to the gospel, and hopefully, have received the good news with joy.

the grace of god

As I drove to the airport the following morning with my team to head to another city, we sang a familiar hymn together:

“Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders.

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished.

His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished…

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer.

But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.”

As I gazed out the window, the words song resonated deep into my heart, more than ever before.

Oh Church, may we not take for granted the grace of our God. We are no less deserving of eternal punishment than the lost people of Delhi. But God, in His divine sovereignty and mercy has seen fit that we would be blessed with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not so we could keep it to ourselves, but so that He might use us to share it with the world. To whom much is given, much is required. Let us respond to the call whole-heartedly.

May we say with Paul:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

*A version of this blog was originally posted on a personal church blog.

Marylou Springer works as the Communications Strategist for the CGCS and the Pastors Center at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She enjoys learning about other cultures, discipling younger women, and drinking good coffee. After further study, she hopes to serve the church through cross-cultural ministry.


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