Truths learned from the life and death of JoPa

It’s been over 2 weeks since the passing of Joe Paterno and I wanted to offer some thoughts about his affect on my life and thoughts about his greater affect for our community.

Upon hearing of the death of Joe Paterno I was saddened to say the least.  I began to listen and read different peoples opinions of the man, the myth, and the legend.  Everything was customary  and nice until I read this:

For 50 years, he was a god of college football.  He may be the best college football coach of all time…. [h]e was so great that I think the ultimate story about him will eventually outshine the awful ugliness of a child molestation scandal that happened right under his nose, on his watch, by his coordinator, on his turf.  You know why I’m OK with this?

We are all Joe Paterno. 

Hundreds of thousands of children are molested right under our noses, on our watch, in our country, in other countries AND only a few people are out there fighting for them.

While I do not disagree with what this blog and it was not unique in its assertions, my mind began to race because of its opinions (especially by Christians) misses the point completely.

In Acts 19:21 – 41 we encounter a  situation that is not all that different from the one we are seeing in Happy Valley.  It’s not exactly the same but very similar.  Paul and his disciples find themselves in the middle of a riot.  The Spirit led Paul and his disciples to to the Ephesus to preach the Gospel and eventually plant a church.  The Spirit moved and people were saved, because of this the idol makers in town began to lose money.  The idol makers, angry about lost wages, spread the word and eventually raise up a crowd to protest and eventually it turned into a riot.

I am not saying that JoPa preached the Gospel, or that there was lost wages because of his firing.  The similarities lie in what happens when we [humans] lose an idol.  Read this definition and see if it applies:

idol |ˈīdl| noun an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.• a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.

The night that JoPa was fired and the riots began, the only thing i could think was, “this is what happens when we lose our idols, when we lose our object of worship.”  Harold Best says explains this best in his book Continuous Worship:

We begin with one fundamental fact about worship: at this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone—an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ.

The point here is that worship describes something that is bigger than singing a song, or any specifically “religious” action. When you take your first bite of an amazing meal, when you witness the phenomenal catch in a baseball game, when you hold your newborn child for the first time, you naturally and freely proclaim your wonder and joy to everyone without shouting/tweeting (new school) distance. These are not bad responses in and of themselves in the right context, but they help to illustrate that we can not help but worship, all the time. Worship involves our entire life.  The problem is the opposite of worship is idolatry.  Every human being, at every moment of their life, today and into eternity, is continuously doing either the former or the latter. On this point a scholar i read said (and I’m paraphrasing),

“People are not to be defined by skin color, gender, by geographical location, or even, shockingly, by their good behavior.  Nor are they defined by the particular type of religious feelings they may have.  They are defined in terms of  the god they worship.

This brings us back to the first quote of this post.

For 50 years, he was a god of college football.

I know that I  will be derided for this but it must be said this is the truest summation of the whole situation I have heard yet.  Whether you consciously or sub-consciously worship him or anyother figure in your life (including yourself) as god then maybe we should all reevaluate our priorities and realize that the Bible is still true when God told Moses in Exodus 20:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

These are the first 2 of the 10 Commandments.  I know that some of you will read this and hear me saying that I hate JoPa or Penn State or (fill in the blank), but this could not be further from the truth.  What I did realize is in this moment an idol was exposed and I began to wonder exactly how many more idols there were in my life [specifically] and in others lives that we just do not identify.  So I wanted to provide some practical steps from Pastor Mark Drisoll (Seattle) to help you avoid idolatry, in the hope that they might be helpful:

  • Be careful of making a good thing, such as marriage, sex, children, health, success, or financial stability, an ultimate thing, or what Jesus called our “treasure.”
  • Avoid participating in any religious community where the clear truth claims of Scripture are ignored while contemplative and mystical practices are favored simply for their spiritual experience.
  • Be careful of any church or ministry wherein acts of mercy and environmental stewardship are devoid of a theology of the cross and wind up being little more than the worship of created people and things.
  • And be careful not to worship a good thing as a god thing for that is a bad thing.

Well that is it, I would love to know your thoughts below…


About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on February 8, 2012, in ...from Jon, Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Any Idol that we establish will ultimately let us down. We see this all the time, especially in this day and age where the media loves to expose people who are viewed this way. Because anyone we turn into an idol, an athlete, actor, singer, philanthropist, pastor, etc. all have a fatal flaw they are sinners. Romans tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and numbers tells us sin ultimately does not remain hidden “be sure your sin will find you out”. So anyone we establish as an Idol will fail. There was only man sinless, one man deserving of worship, everyone else is unworthy. If we are in fact, guilty of setting someone up in our lives as an idol, eventually they will fail us and we will be devastated. We can however see the deeds that others do and use this as a motivation to do good ourselves. Matthew 5 tells us that we are to let our light shine before men that people may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven, so let us mimic the good we see in others to the glory of God, and learn from their mistakes, always keeping in mind they are human. (just like us and like us they will fail at some point as well)

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