Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
When the Children of Israel entered Canaan, their Almighty God asked them to sanctify the land from all forms of idolatry. They were to ruthlessly and zealously destroy temples, shrines and groves; even sacred trees were to be cut down and burned. If there is anything God is intolerant of, it is idolatry. He is indeed a jealous God who does not allow us to have divided loyalties.
It is important to notice though that this commandment specifies ‘In the Land’ and ‘in that place’ (Deuteronomy 12:1-3). It is therefore not incumbent on us to start destroying and defacing idolatrous structures that are not in Israel The only other place where it is pertinent for us to rid ourselves of idols and idolatrous practices is our hearts, and by extension, our homes. The difficulty with that is that it is often much easier to see the idolatry on others that it is in ourselves.
Our nature is such that we have a natural tendency to mercifully analyze and rationalize ourselves to ourselves. To see our own lifestyle in its proper perspective requires the same instrument as the one we use to see if our face is clean: a mirror. And in the case of our lifestyle, the ‘mirror’ is the Torah (James 1:23-24). Religion defined by Torah lifestyle is clean from idolatry, but religion away from Torah becomes idolatrous.
The other problem is that Torah today is in the form of a written text. One’s culture usually defines his worldview and perspective, which in turn defines his understanding of any written text. To see ourselves as we truly are therefore takes the ‘mirror’ of Torah, but in the form of a brother or a sister (Proverbs 27:17). This brother or sister whom the Holy Spirit will use and speak through in the same manner it spoke through Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:28) is usually someone just like ourselves who sees the wrong in us more than in himself. This alls makes for a perfect match because it also requires us to learn submissive humility, which in itself is a pertinent exercise against stubborn and prideful and therefore idolatrous rebellion (1 Samuel 15:23). Many of us don’t mind if God descends from His Great Place to talk to us in a vision or a dream about our problems (that actually feeds our pride), but He usually doesn’t do that; most of the time, He likes to use the agency of an imperfect brother or sister.
This reminds me of Naaman, the leprous Syrian general. First, his wife’s young Jewish slave advised him to seek healing from Elisha, the prophet in enemy country. When he arrived there (having first tried to see the king), Elisha would not even see him; he just sent his servant to tell him to go bathe in the dirty Jordan River. Proud Naaman took offense to the whole thing. It is again his own servant who had to bring him to his senses (2 Kings 5).
May we learn to look in the Torah in our brothers and sisters. May we, as the apostle says, ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19).