If we are Christians does that mean we must completely abandon entertainment? If we love entertainment does that mean we must abandon Jesus? Some hear the word entertainment and avoid it like a flu shot. Others pursue entertainment like a Golden Retriever pursues a tennis ball. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a manual called, How to Balance God and Entertainment in Three Steps?
Unfortunately, there is no three-step manual to this question; there is an answer, however. While Jesus never said, “live in the world, but not of the world,” He has been attributed for saying as much in a conversation He had with His closest friends in John 17. Many hear this phrase and think, “Oh great, Jesus is asking me to live under a rock!” Others hear the phrase and think, “I can see, hear, do, and use whatever entertainment I want to because Jesus said to live in the world.”
I have often struggled to find a balance between the two attitudes and have come to realize that neither extreme is healthy. I think what Jesus meant is to come out from the proverbial rock, but not to be molded, shaped, or controlled by the world. It’s a fine line to walk, especially as it relates to entertainment. Living in isolation from entertainment and not living as a slave to entertainment isn’t easy, but it is possible.
What to do:
Remember the goal in balancing God and entertainment. There have been times in my life when I have completely avoided entertainment I knew to be inappropriate, because I lacked discernment and maturity. Instead, I tried to focus on entertainment that reflected the virtues described in Philippians 4:8-9. I tried to watch whatever was true, or pure, or admirable. This did not restrict my watching reading and listening to only Christian stuff. It just meant I tried to focus on entertainment that drew me closer to God.
Realize what Satan is up to. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” When I was older, I realized Satan can imbed sugar coated lies about God or about myself in entertainment. For example, I love country music. Over time, I discovered not all country lyrics are true about falling in love with someone I just met, or that I must be extremely hot to be valued. As long as I realized this truth, I could still enjoy listening to country music without allowing it to detract from my relationship with God by believing everything I heard just as 1 John 4:1 says: “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear.”
Engage with entertainment. The latter half of 1 John 4:1 goes on to say, ” Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.” When I became more mature, I took a worldview class which helped me able to analyze entertainment from a Biblical perspective. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 points out, “but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” Instead of remaining unengaged with entertainment I was able to test what was being said from a director, song writer, or even Twitter user. For example, a couple years ago, I fell in love with superhero movies. Using the worldview analysis, I discovered superheroes share many of God’s personality traits such as salvation, courage, and power (obviously). Moreover, the need for a superhero is something we, as humans, deeply desire. My analysis did not stop there, however. I also uncovered underlying themes about death, the human condition, spirituality, survival, and power were misconstrued.
Take regular self-checks. “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Social media can enslave me which is why I frequently take social media timeouts. Taking a break from social media lets me test myself to see how much social media use occurs on a daily basis. This also goes for music. I can always tell if I listen to too much music by how I feel when I take a days’ break.
Make the choice. Far be it from me to lay down the law on what you should and should not watch, read, listen to, and do. Yes, breathe a sigh of relief, but before you think you are off the hook, ask yourself these questions: Do I understand the underlying message? Do I know where I stand on this message? How does my stance influence my response? Based on my response, do I proceed, take a step back, or proceed with caution? How does this influence the way I think about myself? How does this influence the way I feel about God? The answer to these questions will impact your relationship with God.
It’s a fine line to walk–living in isolation from entertainment and not living as a slave to entertainment. Keeping the goal of drawing closer to God, being aware of Satan’s ability to disguise bad entertainment as good, actively engaging with entertainment using Biblical analysis, self-checking social media use, and making choices that positively influence our relationship with God can help us “live in the world, but not of the world.”