by Christian C. Tiews
This summer, my wife and I vacationed on a beautiful Spanish island. In addition to enjoying the beautiful beaches and delicious food, we also had the opportunity to tour a dozen stunning Roman-Catholic cathedrals and churches, some of which are some 800 years old.
We stood in awe before their Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque architecture, marveling at their incredible craftsmanship. Yet as magnificent as these sanctuaries were, they all shared one shocking feature. Not one of these churches had a crucifix or an image of Christ at the center of their main altar. Rather, the focal point in every one of these holy places was one of a plethora of saints. To be fair, crucifixes and various images of Christ were present in adjacent chapels and side altars in all of the sanctuaries. But in every instance, the Redeemer was relegated to a place somewhere in the background.
I was greatly offended that some of Spain’s most famous places of worship were consistently breaking the First Commandment. But after reflecting on this heterodoxy for a while, it dawned on me that the lack of Christ-centeredness in these Spanish sanctuaries might actually reflect the reality of the Christian life quite well. After all, don’t we often lead our lives the same way? While we always wish to place the Lord front and center, don’t we very often relegate Him to the side altars, to the background of our lives? How often do other things—perhaps even good things—become the focus of our greatest attention: our vocations, family, financial matters, entertainment, etc.?
This is why we can be so grateful that our standing before God is not based on our checkered and spotty relationship to Him, but on Jesus Christ who makes our distracted and scatter-brained love for the triune God perfect: “For He will complete what He appoints for me,” (Job 23:14). And our Lord forgives all our sins, even those of sometimes unwittingly relegating Him to the background of our lives: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col 2:13).