I’m not a legalist. I’m just putting that out there. I’m not a follower of Jesus who’s in it for the comfort of rules and order. I think Christians get far too well known for our proverbial “Don’ts” than for anything else. There are people living right now who reject Jesus and (more accurately) Christians/Christianity because it seems most like a long list of what you’re not allowed to do. So, before I get into what I’m about to say I want to say first that I hate the fact that I’ve had to say what I just said. Now that that’s out of the way…
Something happened to me recently that has started/restarted a conversation with myself (yet another) about a specific issue; the issue of practical holiness or as some refer to it as “sanctification”. I’d like to add to that “daily sanctification”. Here’s what happened to me: We recently signed up for Blockbuster’s “Combo Pass” which allows us to take out any movie or video game from our local Blockbuster store for any amount of time. (If you’re thinking that a pastor shouldn’t be a member at Blockbuster, you might be a legalist. If you’re not sure, reread the first paragraph.) The Combo Pass allows us to take any movie or game out, one at a time, and keep it from anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. When we return it, we trade it in for any other item we’d like. There’s a flat monthly fee and since we use Blockbuster a bit and since the monthly fee for this month is 50% off ($7.50 for the month), we thought we’d give it a shot. In a nutshell, we’ve used it to the hilt.
So, a couple of Friday’s ago I had the day off. All the kids were in school, my wife was at work, and I was essentially on my own to do whatever I felt like doing. I decided that I’d head to Blockbuster and get a video game to play. I thought I’d try that “Black Ops” game everyone seems to be abuzz over, but when I looked over the selection, I decided on what I thought would be a bit tamer: Goldeneye 007 (A James Bond movie-based game). With a few hours to kill and a video game under my arm, I headed home.
I put the game into the machine and was soon underway on my first spy mission. Goldeneye is known as a “FPS”-style game, or “first person shooter” game. The screen is filled with the images I would see as I walk through bunkers, up stairs, and around corners on my way to the rendezvous point. Graphically, it was pretty cool. But as anyone who plays or knows FPS games can tell you, the word “shooter” in the title is pretty much the whole point of the game. So, as I glided, ducked, and snuck my way through the game’s first level, I had to–ahem–shoot people.
I could really draw this out, but I’ll just cut right to the chase. Within about 30 minutes of playing this “first person shooter” game, I began to feel physically ill. I quickly concluded that the stress of the game, the imagery of the shooting, the pressure of the mission, and the overall fantastical experience of being that shooter for 30 minutes had truly been detrimental to my mind, and quite literally my body as well.
I returned the game to Blockbuster within a couple hours of picking it up and the whole experience soon faded from my mind. That is, until today.
I knew that today would be the day I’d cut the grass and for me, every chore is better with music. So, I fired up my Pandora radio (built into my phone), chose the “80s Throwback, 90s Comeback” station, yanked the cord on the mower and started out on the work at hand. I listened to the likes of Bon Jovi, John Cougar Mellencamp, and GNR. And it was during that second Guns ‘N Roses song that I began to notice something. Not quite as acute as my 007 incident, but I could have sworn that I had literally begun to feel “down”. I can’t say that it was entirely physical though there was an element of that. I suppose its best described as a “soul blah”. Now I want to restate right here that I don’t think people who listen to secular music are bound for hell because they listen to secular music. In fact, I own and enjoy several albums of non-Christian musicians. Its just that I can’t deny the effect that this music was having on me. Recalling my half hour as James Bond, I decided that right then and there I would stop the mower, change the station to one that played Christian/worship music and see what happened. Guess what? I almost instantly began to feel lifted, stronger, and overall better. Again, I’m not proposing that Christian music is magical; I’m only conveying MY experience right there in my yard this morning.
As a man who decided over 20 years ago to turn it all over to Jesus and His Lordship of my life, I must confess to you that as I get older, I see a direct connection between His Lordship and my sense of peace and ease. Not at all that full surrender brings full bliss and problem-free living, but rather that full surrender brings confidence and certainty while the opposite brings, well, the opposite. The Bible puts it this way, “You will keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Daily sanctification is the result of the day-to-day choices we make as to who we’re going to follow. Those choices reflect our heart, for better or for worse. And while its arguable that video games and music choices play a minor role in our overall holiness, I’d submit that they play just as much an integral a part as any other choice we can make; from running that red light to stealing that item to committing that adultery to ending that life. How can we dismiss some choices, claiming they have no bearing on the choices we’d call bigger? Doesn’t each small drop of rain contribute to the torrential downpour?
So, based on my experiences as of late with gaming and music and if I were to make a decision on those isolated alone, I’d have to say that filling my eyes, mind, and ears with things that don’t make God the center draw me farther from Him and likewise filling my eyes, mind, and ears with things that do make God the center draw me closer to Him.
The conversation opens when I realize (because its true) that there are plenty of Jesus-following, God-honoring people who are reading this post and love first-person-shooter games. And there are people who love Jesus and are listening to Guns ‘N Roses while reading my blog. And again, if you think they’re not really Christians then you need to go back and re-reread my first paragraph because you may need to check yourself for legalism.
Instead of drawing this all up with a nice bow, I’d like to invite YOUR thoughts on the effects in YOUR life of “secular” media choices; gaming, television, music, movies, etc. This is a great opportunity for any who have been faithful readers but who have never posted a comment to do so! All I ask for is honesty and respect for others viewpoints.