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What would Jesus watch?

A Christian view of entertainment

By David W. Argue

Entertain me. It’s the passion of our age.

In endless succession we are offered one more diversion, one more exciting moment, one more slice of new reality. Radio, television, VCRs, DVDs, video games, music, the Internet and more — they turn us quickly into spectators, often isolated in our journey into a realm that excites.

Entertainment offers diversion, relief from tension, an opportunity to learn, to peer into others’ lives. It may be a tonic or it may spell trouble. Wisdom, discernment and a plan of action are needed.

No entertainment is neutral. Consider the Internet. "All the trash, flotsam and spillage of our society gets its moment there, where the tiniest obsession has its spot on the shelf … a million flowers bloom, and a million weeds."1

So how do we enjoy the "flowers" and avoid the "weeds"?

Do not just let your conscience be your guide.
Your conscience is quite largely the product of choices you have already made. Conscience can be dulled or weakened. Wrong choices act like a moral anesthetic to the soul — rendering it less and less sensitive to God’s design for life.

Michael Krauss, surveying the damage television did in just a few years to native Alaskans, put it bluntly: "Television is a cultural nerve gas … it is deadly."2

Much of today’s popular entertainment directly attacks the foundations of character, decency and personal integrity. It is often grossly indecent. The poor and broken are exposed to the world to gape at their sickness. Violence — verbal and physical — dominates the spectrums. Greed is fostered in every way.

Children in America, on average, see 30,000 TV commercials each year. How can they not become greedy, materialistic and self-centered? And how are they ever going to believe and act on Jesus’ words about treasure and light and not worry about temporal things (Matthew 6:19-34)? Can our children, fresh from 30,000 slick voices to the contrary, really hear His voice calling them to the only pathway to true life and joy?

Weekly programs (even entire channels) are devoted to lust; others, to gluttony; others, to the development of envy, gossip and more … all surrounded by laughter and good-looking people. The one who watches indiscriminately is lulled into a stupor.

Our consciences quickly become unreliable guides. Dulled consciences produce insipid rationalization for wrong choices: It is OK to watch this … if I turn the sound off in the middle. It is OK if I look away during that scene. Fast forward here.

Psalm 101:2-4 offers an entertainment credo: "I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil" (NIV).

Watch out for this thought process: I need a break. I’ll just see if I can find something interesting to watch.
Find something interesting?

A national periodical announced: "If you are planning a night of entertainment at home, check out the more than 100,000 VHS and 4,000 DVD titles available at …."3

Wondering if you can find something interesting is like approaching a candy counter thinking, I wonder if there is something sweet I can buy? There always will be — all the time. Some of it produced at $1 million per minute.

It is still true: "He who chases fantasies lacks judgment" (Proverbs 12:11).

So the "must see" ratings of the critics must always come under the "God sees" reality. "For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths" (Proverbs 5:21).

Legalism, that ever-lengthening list of dos and don’ts, will not suffice. What we need are workable strategies – perspectives, ways to walk with God in an "entertain me" culture. Here are three basic commitments:

1. I will maintain the flow of God’s presence.

It’s the awesome privilege of each believer to live in God’s presence … everywhere, every day, at work and at leisure, too. Jesus calls us to life’s grandest adventure: "Be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). The goal of our lives in everything is to be more like God. This means that we set as an operational principle that we will seek to turn toward Him in everything and away from all corruption or evil (1 Peter 1:15,16).

Proverbs 3:31-34 counsels: "Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but gives to the humble."

Where God is showing up among people, three things are coterminous: "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). A little short on joy? Or peace? Turn to that which entertains His presence. Walk toward righteousness. Joy and peace will follow.

In all your entertainment choices, ask: Would Jesus watch this? Would He listen to this? Would He play this game?

2. I will hold onto the essence of real life.

Our culture pushes everyone toward surface realities and selfish living. We must continually reaffirm every move toward the essence of real life. This involves two central affirmations:

My home will be a place where the flesh is repudiated — rejected as having binding force or influence. The flesh will not be endlessly catered to. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24).

I will "live by the Spirit" and continually "keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).

3. I will control entertainment so it truly refreshes me and prepares me to re-enter my work with strength of spirit and body.

Oh, the comfort of reading the biography of a great person, or of a heroic event, or the creativity of people exploring the fresh application of the Word of God to life. Oh, the joy of laughing at human foibles. What mental refreshment comes in creating with one’s hands. What tension is relieved in strenuous physical activity. Oh, the inexpressible life that comes from the real, the true, the good.

The mind is formed anew, the conscience is quickened and faith is emboldened.

People of God are full of life. They live in the pure air of heaven. They get their greatest joy from His presence and the adventure of seeing His life transform others around them. They relax in the creative presence of His life-giving Spirit, focused on what is "true … noble … right … pure … lovely … admirable … excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8).

1 Time, May 10, 1999, pp.38,40,54.

2 Tampa Tribune Times, May 23, 1999.

3 "It’s your," Newsweek, August 16, 1999.

David W. Argue is pastor of Christ’s Place (Assemblies of God) in Lincoln, Neb., and is an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God.


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