Filters Follow-up: Entertainment

On Sundays we are going through a series titled “Filters.” The basic idea is that every thought, act and experience of every day is processed through a filter system that God has given to us. This week we mentioned that our filters are stained, in need of cleansing and repair.

Our filters are tainted, but it isn’t the fault of the filters. We have asked them to keep certain things from our hearts and minds. A coffee filter is soiled because we have used it to color and flavor water for us so that we can enjoy our daily cup of coffee. The filters of our minds help us enjoy life by keeping the crud and garbage away for us.

The bulk of this week’s message centered around five key influencers that have shaped and stained our filter. Because of a couple of questions I received following the message, and to help us out in this area of our life, I thought I’d write about one of these influencers: entertainment.

Here are some of the thoughts from Sunday’s message on Filters in regards to our entertainment:

Have you ever considered entertainment as training for your mind? As you encounter situations you have read about, listened to, or seen, each of the experiences you have filled your mind with will colour how you respond in your own life. Books, television, music, movies, magazines – all of these barrage your mind countless times during the day.

When you watch television and see real people in real life situations, you program your mind to respond in kind. Each time a similar situation comes into our life, you will consider all of the options that are pre-recorded in your brain….

What training has the entertainment in your life given your mind for life’s situations?

My goal here is NOT to write out a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to entertainment. I think we can all agree that over the centuries, we have seen enough lists in this regard. But how do we answer the question, “How do I know what entertainment is right or wrong for me?”

There are some guidelines we can follow to help get us started. Before we get to those, I’d like to make a few observations when we run into when talking about this question.

Observation 1: We are all different

Let’s be honest, we all have different likes and dislikes, tastes in music style, and your sense of humor might be very different from my own. Our uniqueness is a gift that God has given to us. He has created each of us to be special. Just like the various parts of a human body, we each have a different role and so are molded differently. Imagine if your nose looked like your big toe or your ear. It might look like other parts of the body, but it wouldn’t be able to fulfill its purpose.

I’ve been told I have a Bob Newhart or Bob Hope style of dry humor. That’s alright. I think it helps to cut tensions in my sermons (as long as everyone understands the joke). But that doesn’t mean someone who draws out that deep belly laugh can’t preach God’s word.

However, we can always get into trouble when we start talking about being different. Being uniquely crafted by God does not give us a blank check, even when it comes to entertainment. We cannot use uniqueness as an excuse to do what other believers don’t do. We have to go further.

In fact, our uniqueness can make us susceptible to influences that other people don’t even notice. I’ve made several life choices about my entertainment. I am sensitive to some things that others are not. Because of that I have to protect myself. That isn’t a judgment against someone else, it just means that I have to be careful for myself. I try to excuse myself gently and humbly, knowing that what I’m missing out on isn’t necessarily wrong, it just isn’t for me.

Observation 2: Some things are inappropriate

Because there is absolute truth, right and wrong, good and evil, you will eventually run into a type or genre of entertainment that is inappropriate. You cannot justify it, it isn’t good for you. At no level of input is it going to stimulate you towards living more in the Spirit, becoming like Christ, learning to use your gifts, or even getting more appropriately in tune with your culture.

Chances are you already know which areas of entertainment I’m talking about. You know they aren’t any good to you. Others may not even cross your mind, but when you find yourself facing them, your heart screams out against them. Sometimes we ignore that as legalism and rules from men when it is our conscience or even the Holy Spirit speaking to us. You’ve heard the phrase, “When in doubt, don’t.” This is a good rule.

Observation 3: We have a hard time saying “No”

What else is new? How long have we heard, “Just say NO”? But we’re not that good at it, are we? Drugs, alcohol, adultery, pornography … some of these don’t even cross our minds. When something new hits the television, though, or our favorite radio station, suddenly we don’t even notice the harmful themes that are in front of us.

Other times we just don’t care. We like it. It makes us feel good. It’s something we do with our friends; it’s about getting together, not about what we’re seeing at the theatre or dancing to at the club. Don’t be afraid to say no; find a soft, humble way of staying away from it.

Don’t forget your filter

With all of that said, let me encourage you that you still have your filter. It is there to keep garbage out of your heart and mind. Keep in mind that, just like many spiritual elements in our lives, it can be abused. Don’t overwork your filter. It will break and fail and let so much through that you’ll be in hard shape afterwards. Protect your filter. Keep it clean. Then it will serve you so much better, and will protect you from those things you need it to.