S: Ezekiel 23:5-8, 18-21 Then Oholah lusted after other lovers instead of me, and she gave her love to the Assyrian officers. They were all attractive young men, captains and commanders dressed in handsome blue, charioteers driving their horses. And so she prostituted herself with the most desirable men of Assyria, worshiping their idolst and defiling herself. For when she left Egypt, she did not leave her spirit of prostitution behind. She was still as lewd as in her youth, when the Egyptians slept with her, fondled her breasts, and used her as a prostitute. ... In the same way, I became disgusted with Oholibah and rejected her, just as I had rejected her sister, because she flaunted herself before them and gave herself to satisfy their lusts. Yet she turned to even greater prostitution, remembering her youth when she was a prostitute in Egypt. She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. And so, Oholibah, you relived your former days as a young girl in Egypt, when you first allowed your breasts to be fondled.
O: A Muslim evangelist in his attempts to convert me to Islam once challenged me about passages like this in Ezekiel, saying that this proves the Bible is not from God, for how can God write pornography?
Do you find this passage pornographic? Is this disgusting?
God makes a very strong statement here about how He views idolatry. It's like pornography and is disgusting when His people commit idolatry. And recall that in the Life Journal from just a few days ago, we saw that idols are not just statues of wood, stone and precious metals, but also wrong motivations held in our hearts.
This is how God views it when we raise any other gods up in our hearts before before Him.
For us as practising Christians, explicit idolatry isn't such a danger. I am even willing to do things that might be associated with explicit idolatry in some people's eyes, for the furtherance of the Gospel. For example, a good Hindu friend of mine invited us to his housewarming yesterday, and it turned out to be a Hindu blessing ceremony complete with priests and incense and rituals. At one point, the guests were asked to bless them with a prayer of blessing and putting a pottu on their foreheads.
Some Christians would say that as Christians who worship the Living God, we should not participate in such a ceremony as it's idolatrous. But the principle we learn from passages like Romans 14:14-23, 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 that whether we do something or not is whether it will cause someone to stumble will draw them towards Christ.
So Juliane and I went ahead and did the blessing, with me praying over them for God to bless them and their marriage and Juliane praying for them to have children who will be a blessing to them, and putting the pottu on their foreheads. I believe they were touched -- we were the only non-Hindus they invited -- in fact, I believe we were the only non-relatives they invited. Had we refused, it could have possibly driven a wedge between them and us, and us being the ambassadors for Christ to them.
In another part of the ceremony, they asked if we would like to receive a pottu on our foreheads. Since they gave us the option, we preferred not to, since the pottu is a symbol of Hinduism and it appeared that they wouldn't be offended if we didn't take it as they gave us the option. (Note, however that there are Indian Christians who wear the pottu as merely a cultural decoration, so not everyone who wears a pottu is a Hindu.)
A: There are no black-and-white across-the-board rules regarding this -- we need to evaluate each situation according to the principle as noted above -- whether we do something or not is whether it will cause someone to stumble will draw them towards Christ.
Our motives must be right -- man looks at the outside appearance, while God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7). And when God looks in our hearts, let's not let Him see anything disgusting, like He saw with Oholah and Oholibah.
P: Father, I commit my life to You. I want You to be always on the throne of my life. I am sorry that I have not always done that, and have allowed my own sinful desires to dethrone you. Help me to see how disgusting that is, as You so vividly illustrated in Your revelation to Ezekiel. Thank You for your forgiveness and grace. In Jesus' name, amen.