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The Spiritual Toll of Constant Entertainment

The Spiritual Toll of Constant Entertainment

Technology is battling for my time, energy and attention every day. From a new augmented reality headset to a new unbelievable-must-see documentary, it seems like there’s always something else that’s pulling me away from other, often more important things.

Take my ongoing Jesus vs. Netflix battle, for example. If I’m being honest with myself, it seems like Netflix is winning my time and attention more than ever these days.

Ironically, when television arrived back in the 1950s, a lot of respected pastors dramatically called it the Devil’s Box. Yet, 60 years later, a study conducted by the Barna Group proved that Christians who practice their faith watch more TV than non-Christians.

Personally, I love to be entertained. I watch anything and everything. I love the news, stupid videos on YouTube, three hours of ESPN and Facebook. I love romantic comedies, superhero movies, sci-fi epics and artsy independent cinema (even when it seems to make no sense whatsoever).

I can spend a full hour browsing through the Netflix gallery just to see what’s available. I can watch full seasons of a show in a matter of days (even with two kids, a wife and a full-time job to maintain). There have even been times I’ve started a show, not really liked the beginning, but kept watching, as if to force myself to get into it—just so I could have another show to watch and be entertained by.

If I would invest that much effort into my time with God, my face would probably radiate with the manifest glory from heaven. (Or, at the very least, I would have a couple more Bible verses memorized.)

Netflix seems to be winning the battle. And I feel like I’m not alone.

Our Entertainment Addiction

I know people who have changed their diets completely based on a Netflix documentary on food. I know others who have taken days off from work so they could finish season five of Breaking Bad (worth it!) And I know, for sure, that if I am having trouble relating with a new person in church, all I have to do is start talking about what I am currently watching on Netflix, and like a miracle of human connectivity, BOOM! We are instantly best friends forever.

So how does Jesus compete against all the noise and the distractions? How are we able to turn down the entertainment in order to turn up the awe and the hunger?

I think we’re desperate to be inspired. We want out of our consuming, selfish, all-about-me prisons, so we wander off in entertainment looking for a purpose. Our real-life stories are lost in the dullness of everyday routine. Our religion has become mundane and easy to figure out. So our hearts are in a legitimate search for the story.

It’s why we turn to Netflix, the Internet or the movie theater.

Jesus the Entertainer

Yes, Jesus is Savior, Servant, King, Lion, God, Lord, but He was also a masterful storyteller. He communicated deep revelations by turning them into profoundly compelling stories about wandering sheep, ungrateful sons and bad farming.

Not only was He a genius with His words, He was also creative with His miracles. He was challenging to the establishment. He was provocative with His decisions. And it was impossible to fit him into a box.

He is literally untamable, radically spontaneous and comfortable with making us uncomfortable.

He is far and away the greatest movie, story, mystery, drama, comedy, thriller that ever was.

And it’s time to tune in.

In his glorious book Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli wrote:

I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.”

Yes, it’s great to watch movies; it’s just better to live a life that could become one. It’s OK to be content consumers. It’s just better to be content creators who become the influencers to a broken generation. There is nothing wrong with amusement, but we were created for something more than entertainment. Our lives weren’t meant to be spent simply watching others’ stories.

The story of Jesus could be our own story. It was designed to be our story. So we remain hungry for it.

We risk losing the wonder of the Good News by reducing it to a set of suggestions for ethical living. And while slumbering in the comforts of Western-Christianity, we often forget that the Scriptures are dangerous and mysterious. That the Kingdom of God is full of drama and intrigue. That it’s the real life: raw, unedited and weirdly perfect.

What Really Competes for Our Time?

In The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence wrote:

But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand ways and He forgives me and relieves me of my bad habits without talking about them.

Jesus is not contained inside our religious efforts. He is too big, and too wise, and too much of a friend of sinners to be limited by that. He won’t stop being who He is because of the things you decided to watch, or do, or say.

But there is a mystery to be discovered. An adventure to be lived. His presence is truly exciting (and available at all times).

I have discovered that Jesus can be with me while I watch Netflix, or do other things in my life that aren’t technically “religious.” He’s not intimidated by the competition. It’s not even a contest, really.

While Netflix gets a couple of hours of my attention, Jesus has won my heart eternally. The key is in remembering that and living it.

So no thank you Netflix, I will not watch the next episode. Today I will set my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith and connect with Him in the journey of sonship, sacrifice and surrender.

Today I know that God is not waiting for me to get to heaven in order to start my episode one.

Time to hit play.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—What God has arranged for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

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