Willis: Be in the World, Not of the World

I have wanted to write a piece on how Christians have embraced our modern Western culture by full force. This will be that piece.

I enjoy writing these sorts of pieces because they allow me to express my feelings and start a conversation, unlike my more academic works such as my Baptism series (A Narrative starting with Baptism)  or my piece on Christ’s descent into Hell (Christ’s Descent Into Hell).

For me, pieces like The Balrog, Gandalf, and Me are a way of connecting with readers. These pieces are conversations, not theological statements or dogmatic truths; though they often contain those elements, it is not the whole of the content. This piece is going to be a stream-of-thought piece. And I want and encourage any readers to please engage in the comments. I want this to spark a discussion.

Anyway, to the point of the article. We see in verses such as John 15:19, John 17:14-16, 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, 1 John 2:15, and Romans 12:2 this idea that we are not to love the things of the world, nor conform to them. We are to take these statements seriously, as we are to take all of Scripture seriously. But let us look in the mirror… Take a moment, read these verses, and ask yourself, “Do I as a Christian follow these words?”

Well… I don’t. And maybe you do. And if so, I thank and praise God for you! But I certainly do not. And I would claim that many do not. The majority of people in fact do not follow these words.

“Now, Brad,” you may say, “what do you mean? Do you mean to imply that I chose things of the world over God? Or that I am not serving properly? Or something of that sort?”

And I answer, “Exactly.” Think about it. Think about how much we have allowed ourselves to fall in love with: material goods, social media, entertainment, and so forth. We love these things. We have allowed them to creep into our churches, our homes, our minds. Everything. We love the things of the world. We love movies, music, and games, for perhaps all of the wrong reasons. Do we use them to honor God? Do we use them to extend His Gospel?

Maybe, just maybe we have allowed ourselves to grow too comfortable with the Western goods, to the point that we have embraced it too far. My father is a perfect example of this. He asked me one day, with hope in his eyes, if golf would be in heaven. And I said it was unlikely. He said what would be the point? Are we just going to sit around and sing hymns all day? Well, he didn’t say hymns… he said songs. And I said yes, that is likely. And he said that would be boring.

My father’s view, I would argue, is common. We imagine heaven to be filled with our lost loved ones, lost pets, games, food, and everything of the Earth, and while some of that is true, it is not what we should expect or want. Being in the presence of God, in the new Heaven and the new Earth, restored in full glory, is beyond enough. If it were an endless field of grass, and we sat in the warmth of the sun and basked in God, that would be enough beyond imagination.

Then think about this. Think about how lazy we have gotten. What do I mean? I mean, how lazy we as Christians have gotten in fighting against the use of technology. We have embraced Western technology barely without a fight. And what has this led to? The massive increase in pornography consumption. The ease in which a spouse can cheat on his/her significant other. Increase in irresponsible spending. Increase in mental illness due to social media and so forth. Sex, adultery, lying, and false testimony have been allowed to flourish, and Christians nay say a thing in the public eye.

And what of our things? I own a PlayStation 4. Should I have not spent that money on my student loan debt? Or donated it to the church? Or given it to a homeless person? Or any other more noble use? Yes! Absolutely. I am guilty of liking my things. I love my things. I like to spend money on myself. I love video games. But… maybe I love them too much…

“But Brad,” you begin “Are you saying we need to give video games up? That we should give up the internet? And so forth? It is impossible! And ridiculous.” Another responder may add, “Look at all the good the internet, for example, has done! The Gospel can spread much easier! And Brad, you are using the internet to say that perhaps we should get rid of it…”

My answer: “Exactly!” We should consider how deep we have gotten into things. Should we give all games up? No. But we should examine how much time we spend on them and how much money we invest into them. We need to reevaluate our time and money and consider if we should reallocate elsewhere. And yes! Absolutely the internet has been a fantastic tool. But it is also a malicious cancer in so many ways. We as Christians should rise up from our chains of Western materialism and sexual “freedom” and fight against that cancer. We have been far too complacent. We need to not allow things to continue to become more and more mainstream.

I wonder if I have made any concrete points. Honestly, in an ideal world, Christians would live in huge communities, reading Scripture, praying, singing hymns, farming (and other essential life chores), and raising children. We should accept materialism only as far as it helps us in the spreading of the Gospel. Should we be Amish? Pretty much. But with correct Biblical doctrines on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Spiritual Gifts, and so forth, the Amish do not have correct Biblical doctrines on many things. But I think they may have something right when it comes to material stuff.

We should strive to live as the Scriptures instruct us. But… I love my stuff too much. I love my things way more… way more than maybe even… no… don’t think it…

Maybe we are too far gone. Should I go back and edit out that we shouldn’t get rid of all video games? I don’t know.

I want to end this rather chaotic piece with the idea that perhaps we need to as Christians think about how we spend our time and money and that we have perhaps become too overwhelmed by Western materialism.

Is this article going to change you? Is it going to change me? Is it going to make a difference? No. Most likely not. I am likely going to go play a video game right after this where I shoot Nazis or something (Wolfenstein)… So, what was the point?

Maybe that was the point…

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