But if then icons, for simplicity's sake we can restrict the conversation to icons of Christ, really are in a sense "Christian idols," doesn't this violate God's commandment not to worship Him as the heathens do their gods?
The image of Christ is not an idol: it's more like a family photo. We don't worship an icon; we venerate an icon. We kiss it and speak to it as we would speak to a beloved relative--a Father, for example.
According to Orthodox theology, it is logical to represent Christ in an image because He manifested Himself as a human being at a specific place and time and, thus, was seen in the flesh by many other human beings: His face is known to us. In fact, an acceptance of icons is required of the Orthodox because it affirms our belief in His complete, undilute, manifestation as a human being: wholly God and wholly human, in hypostatic union.
Before Jesus was manifest, God forbid graven images of Himself because no one had ever seen Him. Any attempt at representing Him could only be an illusion and could only serve to diminish Him and place Him on the same level as, for example, animistic fetishes. He was drawing a firm distinction between Himself--"I AM"--and early mankind's superstitious imaginings.
That said, I'd suggest that the ways of worshipping Him 'as the heathens do' are far more numerous and subtle than can be discussed here. Books could be written about the subject.