Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Entertainment Matters

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,  whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable -  if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise -  dwell on these things.  Philippians 4:8
51 years old, raised in church, born again for the last 23 years, hearing many preachers speak about the evils of the entertainment industry, and working out my own salvation with fear and trembling has allowed me to see many pendulum swings in our culture regarding what is acceptable for Christians to watch, listen to, and participate in. One of the greatest swings in the pendulum has been away from the "you can't join 'em so fight 'em" conservativism of the moral majority 70's, 80's and 90's to the "they won't join you if you fight 'em" inclusivity of much of the church today.  In other words, it used to be that a faithful Christian was expected to remove themselves from the influences of the culture so that there was holiness and a clear distinction between a regenerate and unregenerate life.  Now it seems that, since we're saved by grace, since no one is perfect, since God wants to save more people by grace, and since being perceived as a prudish Christian is a turn off, we have to become like the unregenerate to win the unregenerate. We have to find common ground with the lost so we can win the lost. After all, that's what Paul seemed to be saying, "To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some." (1 Cor. 9:22) So, it makes sense that if I want to reach a biker, I become a biker. If I want to win a golfer, I become a golfer. If I want to win a cowboy, I become a cowboy and it continues ad nauseam. Look, if going fishing with someone gives you the chance to build a relationship that allows you to share the gospel, then get your license, some bait, and get out there. That, however, is the noble side of this issue.
The question that has been hanging around in my heart for months now is once again, "How can I, a Christian, or how can you, a fellow Christian, be entertained by that?"  That music, that show, that game, that hobby, that movie, how?  And, how far should I go with my own self-censorship, or how far should I encourage self-censorship in my friends and the people I pastor?
If I picked on your show or your music, you would just pick on mine. It has to be greater than culture, greater than preference. It has to be about Christ and His glory. It has to be about learning to be entertained by Him (please don't think I think God is all about my entertainment). I simply mean that the way to answer the question, "Should a Christian watch that, listen to that, go to that kind of sporting event, get a tattoo, chew tobacco, listen to Elvis, etc.?" is answered in Scripture. It's partly answered in the passage above that Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi. Sadly, though, terms like true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable have lost their meaning in our morally relativistic culture. We must recognize Paul's willingness to adapt to certain aspects of culture in order to remove barriers to what really matters. Yet, we must also realize that while Christ was called a drunk and a sinner, He didn't get drunk nor did He ever sin. He didn't become like the culture to win it. He just loved sinners, and many believed - though most never really did.
I believe that, in the end, it comes back to this. If I am being entertained by anything that Jesus took upon Himself on the cross, I am wrong and I need to repent by changing what I watch, listen to, or enjoy. 
My strongest sense of this comes from Romans 1:28-32, "And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do whatever is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God's just sentence - that those who practice such things deserve to die - they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them."
We cannot applaud that for which Christ was crucified.  God help us choose our entertainment well.