In the early days of Christianity, there were some people who were so overcome by their love for God, and so inspired by the call to holiness, that they went to live in the desert for the rest of their lives and died there.
This is troubling for me in two ways:
Firstly, wow, must they have gotten bored!
Secondly, I sort of feel like they missed the point of gospel. (You know, with the whole: “Go out and make disciples” thing? Not to mention, the fact that God encourages us to be part of a Christian community.)
Of course, it’s easy to look back and judge well-meaning but misguided dead people, but late last year I realised that I was metaphorically trying to follow their examples and move to the desert too.
It all started when I sat down and read the Salvation Army’s old Orders and Regulations for Soldiers that was published in the 1950s. It was an inspiring read!
At one point, the book teaches that a Salvation Army soldier should “have neither time nor inclination to join in the so-called amusements or pastimes of unsaved worldly people.” In other words, a soldier shouldn’t:
- Attend or play in sports games
- Go to the movies or watch TV
Which seems really intense, but I was inspired!
After all, who has time for TV when souls are perishing? We are called to be single-minded for God! We are called to focus all of our attention on him. Why would we allow ourselves to be distracted by worldly pursuits?
And so, true to my all-or-nothing personality, I promptly sold/gave away all my movies and TV programmes.
After all, there are definitely Bible verses which seem to back up this attitude:
2 Timothy 2:4, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
Except, over the last twelve months, God has been encouraging me to consider that he created me for more than a life lived (metaphorically) in a desert.
It’s been a gradual journey for me, but there are a few lessons that God has been teaching me:
Firstly, I need to be better at resting. I somehow managed to turn my single-mindedness for God, into single-mindedness working for God. And if all I do is work for God, then I’m not following God’s example of resting.
Second, God isn’t restricted to only inspiring Christian authors and artists. What is to stop God from speaking to me through a movie or TV show? Not to mention, God really likes it when we enjoy using the talents he has given us, and that includes talents like writing novels and acting in TV shows.
Third, God has set me free from the law (see Galatians 5) so why am I trying to write myself a new one? God wants me to ask him about what he thinks about specific things, not just generally forbid myself from watching TV, because God knows what is good for me in the season I’m in. And that might be different from what was good for me last year or what is good for the people around me. God wants me to “walk with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), which means having conversations with God about things and not just writing myself new laws.
(For example, I have seen almost every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not Deadpool. Because Deadpool’s violence and swearing makes me uncomfortable. I still love Iron Man though. #teamironman)
You see, I’ve come to realise that those verses I quoted earlier need to be considered next to verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12 which says, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say--but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’--but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Some things are bad for you, yes. But, a lot of things aren’t. And, really, it’s up to God to know which is which.
I still want to be single-minded for God. But I don’t want to do that in a desert. I want to do that out in the world; having fun, honouring God, being part of a community, witnessing to the people around me, and being a total geek.
Now, I just have to slowly build up my DVD collection again.