Why I Don’t Want to Go Live in a Desert

Michal Blog

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.

Kotahi Aroha

Ben Blog

There’s a popular song doing the rounds in New Zealand Christian circles at the moment. It is a song by Link called ‘Tuhia’. I’ve fallen in love with this song over the past few weeks. Here are the lyrics:

Tuhia ki te rangi
(Write it in the sky)
Tuhia ki te whenua
(Write it in the land)
Tuhia ki te ngākau o ngā Tāngata katoa
(Write it in the hearts of all People)

There is but one love
And it is your love
Ko te mea nui
(The most important thing)
Ko te aroha
(Is love)

Your love has freed us
And we're free indeed
Spoken to our pain
Revealing hope again

I love many things about this song. I love its use of Te Reo in the same verse. It’s not just Te Reo verse and then English chorus. It incorporates both languages in the same chorus.

I love the message of this song because it correctly identifies that love comes only from one source–love himself: God. The only reason we know how to love is because we have been made in the image of Love, and we have first been loved by God. It was love that drove God to create us and to create the world we live in. It was love that sent Jesus to the cross to rectify the mistake that we made as humans. It is love that drives God to continue to call us back into relationship with him when we screw up. It is, always has been and always will be love that has been what God is about. I am not diminishing God into a box. With God we have perfect grace, justice, mercy and many other things, but it is love which has flowed down from God that is the source of love.

I love that this song is a call to action. Write it everywhere! Write it in the skies and in the earth and from the street and in the classroom and in the home! There is one love! God’s love! God’s love is such an important message. People need to know that God loves them. On the way home from youth group, when I’m doing drop-offs, the boys call out from the van to people walking around, “Jesus loves you!” I like that. Many people in Western culture believe God is an angry god who is just waiting for people to do something bad so he can reign down his judgement upon them. This is just not true. God is forgiving by nature, just waiting for us to come back into his family; waiting for us to reach back to Him.

‘We love God because he first loved us.’