I just keep getting all hung up in the middle of it. It isn’t that I don’t know what to do or how to do it, it’s just this thing called flesh has a knack for getting in the way. Right when I need a good guideline, I realize I don’t have one for that situation so my sinful man settles presumptuously at the helm as if he belongs there. He doesn’t usually favor the greater good. Those vague, undefined ideas about right and wrong seem to flutter frantically about like impotent, inconvenient little moths until I conveniently turn the light out. Then HE takes over – and one may later conclude “In haste did I act, yet grieve do I sore at leisure.”
You want that moment of triumph, that serene, still and profoundly quiet moment of victory in which you declare to yourself that truly, within the soul there is capacity to overcome. Yet what is most frequent? Is it more often the sad, slow permission for the gray, shadowy compromise to creep so slyly into the Captain’s chair and steer your course?
It seems that we fallible humans are experts at getting ourselves into situations that are anything but black and white, and then settle in as if we plan to live our life that way. And we do. Yet what glory do we give our Father by answering in the Great Judgment Day; “I lived a holy life – some of the time. At least when it was convenient!” Convenient indeed! Holiness is obedience when it is not convenient!
So… entertainment. I realize that taking on this topic is like drilling a hole in the dike- but it’s necessary! Growing up, my siblings and I were never allowed to read or view fairy tales, mythical stories or role play such characters. Some people thought this was extreme and unnecessary, but I’ve come to understand the value of it as I’ve gotten older. In Deuteronomy 18:10-12, the children of Israel are told to remove any form of witchcraft from their midst. Witchcraft is “an abomination to the Lord”, and is not to have a place in the lives of His people. By definition, sorcery is supernatural power that does not come from God.
Unfortunately, our culture has quite a collection of children’s stories that involve cute fairies, “good” witches and innocent magic. Society accepts these stories because they seem so harmless and often teach a good moral principle. Please understand that I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with giving a character fanciful appendages, such as wings, or cute, pointy ears (I wouldn’t mind a pair myself!) but the danger comes in when they have supernatural powers that are attributed to a source that is not of God. Lucifer is still just as crafty, still trying to twist the words of God and make what is forbidden seem desirable. He cleverly mixes just a little bit of truth in with untruth, and like Eve, we swallow it.
Yet we may ask the question, “Is being entertained by witchcraft the same thing as participating in it?” Well, to begin with, if we follow the command in Deuteronomy 18, it won’t be around to entertain us – and why should we be entertained by what is forbidden anyway? Does that mean I am entertained by what is forbidden if I view The Passion of The Christ and see Mel Gibson’s interpretation of Satan? The difference is: he portrayed Satan as Satan, not some cute cuddly toy you would take to bed with you.
The command to remove sorcery from our lives is not to deny the existence of Satan, after all, the bible has plenty of reminders about that slippery scheming serpent, but we are to still expose him and keep him out of our lives. I am not against a children’s story that portrays evil as truly evil, because then it will not be embraced, but I am against a children’s story that portrays evil as something sweet and innocent and intriguing.
But what if the stories have good morals? Well, I’m sure it isn’t the last story on earth that has a good moral. Find another one – or better yet, write one yourself! Children have a knack for wanting to emulate their heroes, and the ironic thing is, they never outgrow this – most adults don’t seem to recognize that they are vulnerable to influence too.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character.” I can see this in my own life, whether it was a person or the media that was my company. For some odd reason, we allow all kinds of unsavory characters into our homes through the avenues of electronics and print, and don’t seem to realize that they are still bad company! When I am repeatedly exposed to sin that is portrayed in a good light, over time my resolve and revulsion against it weakens.
The first step toward sin is to become comfortable with it. It is a sly dulling of our senses, then a searing of our conscience and somewhere along the way we may even find humor in it. Is that a problem if it doesn’t manifest in the physical? When Jesus said “whosoever looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery in his heart” He hit on a very important point that should be close in the minds of all believers. When the commands of God are not written on our heart, as in desiring what He desires and hating what He hates, then we are still in sin. There is no place for neutrality in the life of a believer. Amos 5:15 “Hate evil, love good.” I have a hard time hating it if it is constantly presented to me in a way that makes it seem desirable, or even benign. It isn’t benign, and I tremble to think I would consider it so.
There is also the problem with glorifying violence. Violence, in and of itself is not the problem, it is how it is used that determines whether it is right or not. Seen on the back cover of a video game: Master the Art of the Kill (with super cool graphics, mind you.) The packaging is well done, it’s presentation is professional and attractive, it really looks pretty sharp. And that is the problem. Killing someone should never be glorified to an art form as if it was something to crow about. Job 31:29 “[I have not] rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil found him, indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking a curse for his soul.”
I find my own humanity so pathetically frail when I discover a vengeful heart in myself, or find satisfaction in seeing a perceived enemy whether real or through entertainment, meet his demise. Rejoice in that he is no longer able to harm others, but weep, yes, for his Maker is saddened that His children do not walk in righteousness. That grievous soul suffered, and will continue to suffer, but let it not be that we sin when God shows mercy on us and removes the terrorist from our midst.
I am not against learning methods of self-defense, if it is with the attitude that recognizes the profound gravity of taking the life of another human. Technique is of course needed and that might be “artful” in the sense of precision and form, but the fact that a life was irreversibly terminated by it should not be focused on like it were a virtue or trophy to show off… even if that life deserved to be terminated.
As far as TV goes – there is a huge amount of risk involved that, in my mind makes it hardly worth watching. The value of the good information received is sorely outweighed by the deluge of toxic filth – you never know if you are going to be exposed to some steamy commercial for skin lotion or an obnoxious pervert’s twisted sense of humor. If the information is so valuable, I can get it elsewhere without polluting my brain.
The danger in all of these things is that to find out if it is truly good or not, you have to expose yourself to it. My method for dealing with this is to not watch very many movies in the first place and if I do, I’m cautious about the rating. Entertainment is not so necessary that I have to risk corrupting my character over it. I avoid reading novels that look like they compromise good values and if I discover a particular author has a trend toward it, I quit reading them. I like this quote; “He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds” -Dag Hammerskjold
It can be difficult to make the decision to remove negative influences from my life, especially if it involves a person or activity I enjoy. But what controls me? Is my fear of God what influences my decisions or is it the desire of my sinful nature that carries more weight?
I could make lots of hasty rationalizations to try and smother my conscience but in the end, I’ll still have to stand before God and give account for my life.
When I am making a decision, I have to honestly evaluate my motive and hold that in the light of righteousness – is the reason I want to argue with this because I want to feed the desire of my flesh or because I want to please God? It is always better to err on the side of caution than on the side of pleasing one’s flesh. I could theoretically watch a perfectly wholesome movie and still be sinning if my heart was not surrendered to immediately hitting the power button if things got out of hand. It is the heart that is willing and proactive about doing the things that the conscience tells it to do that is truly innocent before God.
Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Walking with God is not possible if I continually place myself on a path He isn’t on. He isn’t on the path that plops a person down in front a movie that extols humanism, glorifies sin and slowly corrupts godly values, all for entertainment value. I have crossed this path before, and am very relieved that I made my exit! Even if it wasn’t for entertainment value, and there was some other thing to be gleaned, is it really worth it? Where do my values truly lay? Is there really something so important that I have to risk sinning to get it? Matt 16:26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Indeed.
To close, a quote from Phillips Brooks: “Some day, in the years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now… now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady long process. “