Thursday, August 17, 2006

The riptide of media

As I spoke at Brethren National Youth Conference this summer in southern California, I was given the subject of “The Riptide of Media.” Media…it’s not all bad. In fact, I will be the first one to admit that I like watching television. We all have different tastes when it comes to TV entertainment. My wife and I do. For me, I like shows with a lot of action in them. If a gun isn’t being fired, a car isn’t crashing or something large isn’t exploding, then I probably won’t like it. That’s why in my mind, the best television show in the history of TV is Walker, Texas Ranger. Now that’s a show. My wife will say, “He can’t act and he can’t sing.” Yeah, but he can fight . . . what more do you want?

Now, my wife likes the shows that make you cry. She lives for Hallmark commercials. Her favorite show of all time is Little House on the Prairie. Now that’s a boring show. Yet, for vacation one year, I took my wife to Walnut Grove, Minnesota so she could stand on the very plot of ground where Charles Ingles built his little house and put her feet in the same creek where “Half-Pint” used to play as a child. Now, if that doesn’t win me “husband of the century” honors I don’t know what will. Maybe if we could combine those two shows and let Walker fight Charles, I would enjoy the action and she could cry when “Pa” takes the beating. Oh, well, just a thought.

The truth is, however, that today’s media targets teenagers. Youth spend more money on media entertainment than any other age group. The more teens they get to watch, listen and read, the more money they make. So to lure the teens, they use their #1 bait . . . sex!

Jesus gives to us a principle in Matthew 5:27-30 to help us protect ourselves from such a dangerous riptide. Jesus begins by giving us the principle that says we should not just avoid sex outside of marriage. Jesus raises the bar of spirituality. He says that anyone who deliberately puts something before their eyes with the goal of being sexually aroused by a woman other than their wife, they have already committed adultery with her in their heart. And to show us how serious He is, He commands us that when it comes to lust, if our right eye makes us stumble, we should cut it out. And if our right hand makes us stumble, we should cut it off. The word “stumble” speaks of a hunting box held up by a stick. When the animal is lured under the box, the stick is pulled and the animal is trapped. The stick giving way is what the word “stumble” describes.

But what did Jesus mean with the whole eye and hand thing? Many in the early church took this so literally that they had to call a special council banning self-mutilation. I don’t believe that Jesus is speaking literally here. The right eye and right hand was used figuratively to speak of those things most valuable to you . . . your vision and your skill. In other words, Jesus is saying if there is anything you watch, listen to or read that causes the trap of lust to fall on your mind, get rid of it. You see, the early church took this way too seriously and started gouging out eyes and lopping off limbs. But today we don’t take this principle seriously enough. So, when it comes to your taste in entertainment, is there anything that is causing the trap of lust to fall on your mind? Cut it out!

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