It sneaks into our vision and traps our eyes as if they are held captive. The characters remind us of people we know, and we awkwardly relate to their situations. Perhaps we even find a sense of community as we laugh at the same time as the “studio audience.” How does this happen? How can we so quickly be pulled into a place where we weep and laugh over the lives of people that do not exist? True, the actors are real, but our minds and emotions are held captive by fictitious characters in fictitious situations. So much so that we will express heartbreak when the season ends, our favorite character is killed, or the show gets canceled.
It is no secret that we are a society of entertainment and amusement. Movies on demand, amusement parks, hobbies, social media, and video games offer us a means of escape. We find comfort in being distracted from reality and being able to elude the problems of the world, if even for only an hour or two. Most find it amazing how quickly time passes as they scroll through a newsfeed.
As a believer, husband, father, and pastor I often find myself asking why I find certain activities entertaining. Accosted by endless mediums of amusement, we effortlessly lax the mind, forgetting there is a battle for our thoughts. Peter writes to the church and urges the believers to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Is it possible that our entertainment is affecting us more than we know?
A State of Mind
Peter’s call to the church is for them to stay alert. There is a sense of urgency and awareness because of the presence of an enemy that is prowling for destruction. Therefore, we are to be mindful of our present circumstances. That seems to stand opposed to the idea of amusement. We need to look no further than the meaning of this word to understand why.
One author explained it this way: To muse, means to be absorbed in thought. It is a verb that involves the engagement of the mind in an activity. The suffix -ment means “to be in the state of.” Putting these two things together means that “musement” is to be in the state of thinking. (No, musement is not a word, as I sit here and type, the spell check is notifying me that I have again misspelled another word.) What begins to make sense is that when we add the prefix a- to the beginning of the word it negates the word. For instance, if we said someone was amoral, it would mean they have no morals or seem to be unconcerned with morality. When we place a- and -musement together we learn that we are in the state of not thinking.
If Peter calls us to be mindful, it seems that a state of amusement stands in opposition to the urging of Apostle. My purpose is not to make sure you never ride a rollercoaster again or are never entertained. Instead, I want you to realize the danger of letting our guard down. It is no secret our entertainment often involves actions we publicly profess as being immoral and wrong.
A State of Heart
We know our heart better than anyone else. As a believer, we are often keenly aware of the cesspool of sin that our heart and mind fall victim to as the fleshly desires of the world ooze up from depths we would like to keep hidden from everyone. We work hard to tame our actions so that no one knows the wickedness that creeps out on occasion. Yes, the heart is deceitful, and our salvation does not change the struggle, it makes us aware of it. As we are brought into the holiness of God by the work of Christ, the light of glory shines in the hideous parts of our lives – that place is where the entrapment lies.
When the state of our mind is lackadaisical, our depravity pours forth. Could it be that the focus of our amusement is the sinfulness of the heart finding a safe place of refuge? Is it possible that the lessening of our guard not only allows the lion to attack freely but shows us that within the clenches of his jaws are parts of our heart that we gladly surrender?
Sobering the Mind
Not all entertainment is spiritual poison, but we would be foolish to deny that poison lies within some of its forms that we enjoy. How do we stay on guard? How do we watch for the footprints of sin and listen for the footsteps of the one that desires to steal, kill, and destroy? I want to give you three questions to ask as you delight in entertainment:
Is this the delight of the Lord?
The fictitious characters and fictitious circumstances are intended to portray something that is real. If it was real, would it be something in which the Lord delights? Do actions of the characters resonate with the glory we are saved to or the sin we were saved from? When we are scrolling through our newsfeed enticed by the “click-bait” that pervades the pictures of our friends, it is often pretty easy to tell if God delights in the content of the link from the image and the title.
Am I asking people to participate in things that lead to death?
Often, we are delighting in the actions of the unregenerate. They are fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and we are enjoying their journey. Two people entertain us in a sexual encounter, and we applaud the love story that we know dishonors the beauty of marriage, as given to us by our heavenly Father. We know the wages of sin is death, but it is not us; therefore, we treat it as no consequence. The characters and circumstances may be fictitious, but the actors are real people. Even their “pretend” actions are having an eternal impact on their souls – and ours.
Is there something better?
No, I am not telling you to turn off your Netflix and read your Bible. (Though that might not be a bad idea!) We know that as we participate in these forms of entertainment we are feeding the fleshly desire found in Galatians 5:19-21: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I am challenging you to see if there is something that helps you exercise the holiness to which God calls you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there something you can be doing that will help you in your journey, becoming more like Christ.
Cultivating a Desire
I do not expect the questions I have given to be a solution for keeping our eyes and hearts from sin – that is an impossible task this side of glory, yet one to which we should still strive. However, I do hope that it allows you to join with me in staying sober-minded in moments of entertainment – to be entertained with our minds in a state of “musement.” As believers, we should delight in the things of God, which also means we delight in the things which he delights. May God grant us the desire to align our desires with his.