Interesting thought I recently ran across in George MacDonald (GM, the Scottish writer/mystic/Christian universalist) in a passage examining Christ’s temptations, particularly where Satan offers Christ all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Christ would simply bow and worship him. GM suggests Christ is here offered a vision of what he knows will be manifestly his eventually – the whole world, but it is here offered to Jesus on different terms. GM says here was have an example of good and right things being pursued on false grounds.
GM ends the passage with something that shocked me a bit, but with which I could only agree:
“Not even thine own visions of love and truth, O Savior of the world, shall be thy guides to thy goal, but the will of thy Father in heaven.”
One can possess the God-given forms of things, but possess them falsely. Only the Father’s will (God himself) can be truly, rightly, desired. This may explain the distinction Paul realizes in 1Cor 13 when he says one can perform any of the common acts we associate with doing rightly or well, or serving God (i.e., exercising spiritual gifts, giving all we have to the poor, sacrificing our lives to save others, etc.) without these acts being right and good if they’re not intended by, or as, love. The same act (giving to the poor) can be false or true depending on the love with which it is performed, for the end we intend defines our actions (as loving, meaningful, etc., or as worthless). This has to stand within Paul’s admonishment in Col 3 that we do what we do with all our heart “for Christ, not for people.”
Christ had to bring his (our) humanity to God in the same terms. GM’s point is that while the whole world was bound to come to Christ, to be his in all its glory, nevertheless to pursue this end as such, to intend it and not the Father, is equivalent to worshiping Satan. One needn’t sacrifice a goat and bow down within a pentagram to be beholden to evil, for desire (when it takes shape within intention) is worship. Idolatry, then, isn’t just a form of worship that involves images other than God. It is desiring anything other than God.