In case you are not aware, Engage’s parent organization, American Family Association, is spending a great deal of time and effort talking about one of Netflix’s biggest shows 13 Reasons Why.
You can read all about the show, and why AFA is talking about it in the links. I am not looking to recap or summarize what has been said (very well) elsewhere by other AFA writers. However, as we always try to do on Engage, I want to step back and examine the foundation of AFA’s argument and why it matters.
I have to be completely honest here: I love being entertained. I love watching movies. I love watching shows and documentaries. If I’m not doing those, I’m probably reading a book or playing a game on my phone.
Humans as a species have always loved being entertained and amused. We can trace the power of stories all the way back to nomadic tribes drawing comic strips on cave walls. But we as Christians have a duty to stop and consider what it is we allow ourselves to consume and be entertained by.
This is about much more than 13 Reasons Why. This is about the fact that you are being conformed to what you consume. That is the underlying truth AFA is speaking to when the articles linked above discuss the show. Anna Bright (if you don’t know her name, read the article or watch the video) watched 13 Reasons Why and more than consuming the show, she allowed it to consume her.
Being consumed is actually a biblical concept. The writer of Hebrews describes God as “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). It should be of great interest that this is in the context of worship. Specifically, the writer says, “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
The reason we can be so consumed by our amusement and entertainment is because we do not consider what worship truly is. We think worship is the act of singing on Sunday morning. Paul says we are to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” because that is our “spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). This means our worships extends to every part of our lives, even the entertainment we choose.
If you are familiar with the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, you will recognize what an oxymoron Paul’s statement is. A sacrifice always died. Always. A sacrifice was completely consumed. His blood was poured out. His flesh was burned. It was utterly and absolutely consumed.
We are to be living sacrifices. We are to be completely consumed by God. For us to be consumed by anything else, consciously or unconsciously, is an act of idolatry.
I’m not here to say we should never be entertained by things not labeled “Christian entertainment.” However, I will echo Ignatius of Antioch who said, “Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.”
Being entertained can easily become a full-time job for us. There are so many shows, movies, and characters to keep up with. While we think we are simply consuming stories, they can actually consume us. If we are to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29) we must first be consumed with and by Him.
In our age of mass distraction, this is a difficult task. How are we to cut through all the noise and listen for “the sound of a low whisper?” (1 Kings 19:11-12). Robert Murray McCheyne offers powerful and practical words of wisdom:
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms. Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.
When we see Christ as He truly is, the world and all the stories therein will lose their attractiveness and dazzle. The greatest and most impressive attraction in our lives will be Christ and Christ alone.
Let Him be the only thing that consumes you.