Many have been confronted with the “Are you still watching?” notification during a Netflix binge. But we aren’t often tempted in the same way when it comes to our devotional life. We, therefore, need to be thinking about how we can love God more than our entertainment, especially during a pandemic. Here are some considerations:
We are increasingly prone to use entertainment in an isolated way. In a time of social distancing, entertainment can promote a kind of mindless solitude. But it doesn’t have to. Consider entertainment outlets that encourage relational interaction. For example, sports can promote fellowship and intimacy with others. I enjoy playing golf with people in our church. Playing and/or watching sports with others who walk with Christ is a great way to deepen trust and friendship with others and is a great opportunity to talk together about Jesus.
We also must use our entertainment in a way that doesn’t compromise our Christian convictions or hinder our Christian witness. This requires discernment. Like in golf, there are things in entertainment that are completely out of bounds. Some entertainment puts us in a position akin to teeing up the ball and hitting it so far out of play that the ball shatters a window of a nearby house. We need to consider the possibility that we’ve become more conformed to the world in our entertainment than we’ve been transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). We need to own the fact that there are widely watched shows and movies containing socially accepted pornographic and violent content. We must stiff-arm these things for the sake of purity in our hearts (Matt 5:8) and transformation in Christ. They’re out of bounds.
Returning to the golf analogy, there are also some things in entertainment that are in bounds but are not in the fairway, like being in the rough. Certain shows, movies, and music promote themes antithetical to the gospel but if enjoyed with wisdom and prudence can promote fellowship at the same time. This takes tremendous caution and is an issue of conscience. Thankfully there are plenty of entertaining things that are safely in the fairway; making it easier to avoid compromising our convictions or hindering our witness.
Love is a Responsibility
The greatest commandment of the Law is to love God with everything we have––with our whole selves (Matt 22:37). Everything we do, say, and entertain ourselves with needs to be either flowing into or out of this commandment––as an expression of our love for God. We need to be clear about this responsibility––as it applies in everything no matter what we’re doing in life. Whether we’re baking, exercising, reading, or watching Netflix.
Whatever we’re trying to do, we must be clear about the responsibility handed to us from Christ himself: that loving God with all our heart is the greatest commandment and a serious matter that applies to all of life.
God Loves us
The key that unlocks our love for God and others is to come to an understanding of the fact that he loves us. Entertainment doesn’t love us. The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It is God who shows loving initiative in our lives. Jesus says, “Even as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). Understanding that we are the object of divine love is the kindling in the fire of our love for God and neighbour.
God’s Marvelous Purposes
Paul says that “when [Jesus returns] … to be glorified in his saints, he comes to be marvelled at among all who believe” (2 Thess 1:10). There will come a day where Jesus will return with the purpose of being marvelled at. We marvel at the Creator of the universe. Not at the creatures of the Marvel universe. We worship the God who made everything, not the things he made.
We need to redirect our fascination to him. The Bible says that God is going to send his Son again to be marvelled at. So why not begin that journey today? Because it might just thrill us into loving God more than what’s behind the screen.
Consider this warning, “If anyone loves the world or things in the world, then the love of the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15). In other words, if we love the world or things in the world, we don’t love God. This is an echo of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven rather than treasures on Earth. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:19–20, 24). There is a sense where we simply won’t love both God and our entertainment. We have to be careful and heed warnings. We have to examine our hearts as to what the object of our love truly is.
What we Say
Jesus says “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). The primary way to diagnose what we love is to examine what we say. What’s my default topic? What do I find myself most frequently talking about? What ideas, words, and subject matters come out of my heart and through my mouth? If you love God, you will speak much of him. If you love your entertainment, you’ll speak much of it.
What we talk about will reveal whether we are living that felt experience inherent and essential to the Christian walk: wonder at who God is. We need to be open to asking ourselves and diagnosing in our hearts as to whether we’re in awe of God. If the answer is no, we’ll clamour for a counterfeit experience of awe that is more conveniently found in something like entertainment. And what we talk about will be the clearest diagnostic.
Set a practical Goal
Those struggling to love God more than entertainment would do well to set aside some time to read a Christian book or a biography that someone you respect has recommended. For those who aren’t necessarily readers, try a documentary such as Through the Eyes of Spurgeon or American Gospel. Introducing one of these things, something that’s out of the norm of what we normally do for our devotions can serve as a kind of catalyst in our spiritual test tubes to ignite a reaction of fascination and awe in God—and love for God.
This is not a magic formula, but I’ve found that in my life reading good Christian books alongside my journey through the Bible every year has been a spark plug.
My heartfelt invitation would be to prayerfully examine these considerations for loving God more than entertainment. I trust God would use them in minds and hearts to ignite love, awe, and satisfaction in the only true worthy object of our ultimate affections.