I collect action figures. Actually, I should say I have a large collection of action figures. It's an expensive hobby and what's worse, it takes up lots of space and in turn collects dust. I'm not one to keep my toys in their respective packaging either. I like to pose them (stand up straight, please) and group them by size and type, etc. As I've about exhausted what space I have to display such things, I have lain aside the active part of my hobby. I still have them and love them and will keep them (and pick them up should they fall down--kinda frustrating) .But I can't keep sinking money into something that just fades away into "stuff". I'm a hearty advocate for minimalism. And should you need (or feel the need) to acquire things, make sure they mean something to you.
For instance. One of my favorite figures is a highly detailed T-800 from the movie Terminator 2. As I was about John Connor's age and living in Southern California when the movie came out, it stands as my favorite film. And the figure reminds me of that. The first game I ever beat in the arcade was Street Fighter II. As such, I have a figure of Ryu (the character with whom I won the game), complete with white gi and fighting scowl and two--two pairs of fists! Pretty cool. I also have several Superman figures. One real nice resin statue of him from the Golden Age--with a winning smile, hands on hips and feet shoulder-length apart. I also have a figure of him sculpted from the art of Ed McGuinness (I have Batman and Green Lantern in his style, too), my favorite comic-book artist. Another Superman figure comes from the pages of All Star Superman, a twelve-part maxi-series in which he as a character is stripped of all elements of continuity and retold in the most brilliant style imaginable. To this day my favorite comic. Another favorite is Marcus Fenix from the first Gears of War game. One of the many games my brother and I played to keep our minds off our parents' divorce. The storyline centers around a rag-tag band of soldiers (of whom Marcus eventually comes to lead) on the alien planet of Sera from whose core, an evil race of demonic-looking creatures emerges to subjugate and take over. The game and its subsequent sequels are essentially tragic in scope--and ultraviolent. It was incredibly cathartic and a great distraction for Ian and I--to diffuse our aggression during that period. Halo, too (Halo 2): numerous "Spartans" have I as well, each permutation cooler than the last. All this aside, there came a point in my life a while back where I felt I had strayed into not just coveting (one more!) but also idolatry. I'll explain.
The more you think about it
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from Heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold." (Exodus 20:22-23) Nor of plastic, neither.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus, too. I believe that He died for my sin (and sins) and that He rose from the dead with a body that is in many ways like ours but different. What it's made of, I couldn't tell you. I don't have answers for a lot of questions that arise when the topic is seen with the mind I possess colored with and influenced by everything in my near-thirty years. In other words, I don't know everything. But there are rabbit trails I'll go down with my thoughts where I'll try and analyze things from a neutral and dispassionate perspective. It's on those trails that, sometimes, my actions might look to stray into a gray area with (maybe) more black than white. It's in this frame of mind, when looking at a physical representation of a fictional character that comes awful close to resembling a figment (read: idol) that's intended to get one's eyes off worshipping the one, true God. I felt guilty.
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2:14-15)
The easy answer is, don't put anything above God. Guilty. But I think there's a deeper meaning to this whole thing, specifically. This is my theory, that when Jesus died and rose from the dead, the means of an unholy spiritual entity being able to infuse an object or representation with its presence was cancelled. Oh, I believe it's still possible to have possessed possessions but the person in question has taken pains, in this case, to give the devil a means of expression that he's normally not privy to. I digress. What Paul is saying in the above passage is that all the fallen angels and demons who had the run of this world prior to Jesus coming and dying, were rendered powerless. As such, Paul writes this:
"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in Heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him." (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, emphasis mine)
In other words, Jesus having come to earth as a human rendered the phsyical plane a holy one. To where now, it's not that we're allowed to have idols, no. Just that I don't think that I'd be allowed to have my action figure collection had Jesus not done what He did. Because each character I possess represents a trait that, not only I subconsciously aspire to, but that Jesus fulfilled in reality. In knowing Jesus and worshiping and walking with Him first, I believe He allows me to have what I do (*shrugs shoulders*). Provided I don't think about them more than He, nor put them above Him as a Person. Simple enough, right?
In closing, turn it around and look at it this way. Any statue of Jesus, as such, will not with its presence make one any closer--or more right with God--than they can be in heart, if their heart is not right with Him. James says regarding "the flower of the grass" (1:10) that, "the grace of the fashion of it perisheth" (verse 11). I know it's referring to our "splendor"--if you could call it that. But I also believe it touches on the dilution of the inherent meaning (and newness) of our stuff. To where my action figures become something from my past and subsequently don't mean what they used to. The thin, light gray pallor of dust they've acquired testifies to this. But Jesus is always fresh, always alive.
And even though I'm getting too old for "toys", He never will.