I remember when I was just a boy, I used to think it was so cool to get close enough to my favorite athletes to get their autographs. Then, when I was old enough to drive and work a job, I would go to the games of the local Minor League baseball team and buy seats that were close enough to the field that I could get autographs from the players during their warmups. I learned that this was a cheap and easy way to get the signatures of players who had a great shot of making it in the big leagues. The biggest reason I wanted to take this easy route was an experience I had at 10 years old. My dad took my brother and I to a local baseball store/batting cage that had advertised an event with our favorite player of our favorite team - Barry Bonds, then of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was advertised that we would get his autograph and participate in a batting clinic that he would teach. It was supposed to be a great experience. However, things didn't go as planned. We waited in line for almost 2 hours just to hand him a baseball and card, which he promptly signed while ignoring our attempts to talk to him as if the whole event was an annoyance for him. Because the autograph line was so long, he had to cancel the clinic portion. So in other words, we waited in line for almost 2 hours just to get up close and speak to a guy we cheered for on TV and get his autograph, only to realize that he couldn't possibly have cared less about us! The fact that he left my favorite team and took big money to sign with the San Francisco Giants, went on to become baseball's all-time home run king, and was considered the best all-around player in the game for a generation never changed my opinion of him which was based on one very brief personal interaction. While my judgment of Barry Bonds is irrelevant in the grand scheme of life, his many great achievements could not overshadow in my mind the bad attitude he had that one day 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, the words and writings of professional athletes and other celebrities are sources of idol worship all throughout our society. Even as I write this, the great Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has just passed away. While it's okay and appropriate to remember and appreciate his achievements, the reaction of many has been nothing short of idolatry. There is a statue of him in State College, PA that many people are visiting with "reverence", as one TV network put it. For those of us who follow Jesus Christ only, this should be nothing short of disgusting to us. Our God is the only One who deserves this kind of reverence.
In the Old Testament, people were afraid to hear and see God, and rightfully so. Exodus 19 and 20 is the account of the LORD descending to the top of Mount Sinai to speak directly to Moses while all the Israelites could hear Him. This was the setting where God revealed what we now call the "Ten Commandments". What amazes me, a guy living on the other side of Christ's sacrifice which permits me to have a direct relationship with the Creator of the whole universe, is the FEAR that immersed God's chosen people. The presence of God was marked with thunder, lightning, loud trumpet blasts, and a dense cloud. God told Moses to set clear boundaries between the people and God's area. "Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death'" (19:12). Later, the people saw all these signs of God's presence and "trembled with fear" (20:18). "They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die'" (20:19). The important thing for us as sinful, mortal human beings to know is that God sets these boundaries for OUR benefit, not His. Unlike many of the athletes and celebrities that we try to get close to, God desires to have a relationship with us and let us experience Him. However, because we are unholy and He is holy and His presence alone destroys anything that is unholy, He set boundaries so that we would not be destroyed. Thus, we rely on human beings whom God had set apart to interpret His Word for us. That was until He sent His Son to come to the world to be both a perfect mediator between us and our Creator, as well as the complete manifestation of everything that God wants to reveal to us.
Much is discussed by both Christians and those who oppose our faith about how God's original message has been tainted by humans who were the first to write it down and also those who have interpreted/translated it over the generations. As a Christian, I feel I cannot argue that point. There is no doubt that sinful human beings have had their influence on the Bible. But I want to challenge everyone reading this blog to look beyond that fact to the bigger picture. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us". While this is an obvious reference to Christ, John is intentional about referring to him as "the Word". That means that whether human beings have tainted the tangible writings of Scripture or not, we have the TRUE and ORIGINAL message of our Creator in the person of Jesus Christ. By entering into relationship with him by faith, we are entering into relationship with "the Word" in its original form free from human contamination. And the best part about it is that THIS Word has the Creator's autograph all over it!