I was speaking to my mother recently about some of the reactions I received from friends and peers when I first stopped watching television, and her observations led me to do a lot of thinking.
When I stopped watching movies and TV shows, and stopped reading books and listening to music that I knew were not honoring Jesus, my social circles didn’t take it very well. Some of my friends really listened. A few were even excited to see where the Lord would lead me. I lost some friends who were very dear to me. Most, however, turned it into a debate on theological and cultural relevance. The arguments were generally the same; they talked about how important it is to have common ground with the rest of the world, how Jesus has called us to be very “in the world” people, and how cowardly or deceived they themselves had been when thinking the same way as I now did. When they could see that I meant to follow Jesus without popular media and wouldn’t change my mind, the discussion would end with the promise that they would pray for me—in the way that indicated they would ask Jesus to make me normal again.
As I was recounting this to my mother, she tacked on an interesting thought.
“If you had told them that you had been reading way too much of the Bible lately, and that you were going to take a break–”
I was baffled at the truth of the thought before she even finished saying it.
Some probably would even have been curious and interested in it. I don’t say that simply because any of them disagreed with my either. I know there would have been some who would have at least cautioned me not to take it too far. Others would probably give me the conversational equivalent of a tackle, or hold an intervention. Still, most of those to whom I spoke about giving up television—knowing me to be a theology nerd—would have been at least curious, if not in full support of me cutting back on my time with Jesus.
I had to think on it for a while after that conversation. I thought of the fact that most Christians probably wouldn’t notice the difference in a fellow believer’s life if they stopped reading their Bible. As long as they are still involved in church, and do their best to be nice, would you or I know the difference? Would they even seem more normal and pleasant? Do we even know how much the Christians around us spend time with Jesus?
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the path of recent Christian history, it became embarrassing for Christians (the people who name themselves after Jesus) to know Him, talk about Him, spend time with Him, obey Him, and love Him more than life, limb, family, and the world around us. It is hardly even spoken of if a Christian is acting in a way that pulls them away from Jesus, because “we shouldn’t judge them” and “we don’t know what is in their hearts.” So we all label ourselves as “Christians”, but we identify with sports, or characters in movies, or celebrities, our our favorite hobbies, or what school we attend. That is why so many became offended when I stopped watching television. In many ways, Christianity is a label, but popular culture is a lifestyle.
Does that make your heart weep?
It all reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle. All of the talking animals were afraid to speak up when there was a fake lion pretending to be the real Aslan. They had always been told that Aslan was “not a tame lion,” so how could they argue if He was not the way they thought He would be? They didn’t know Him.
The real devil has done this in the real world so long, that we are afraid to imagine that there is a true Jesus who can be seen, and heard, and touched, and known. What if we offend Him be presuming to know Him when we do not? Best to leave Him as a symbol, and Christianity a label, and focus on things in the “real” world, like celebrities and long novels.
So then, the very reason that Christians are offended when I give up popular culture, and when I talk too much about Jesus and read my Bible more than is natural in someone my age, is exactly why I must talk about Jesus even more and read my Bible more than anyone ever has, if I can.
Because Jesus is real. I know Him. True, I don’t know Him much when compared with how infinitely more I can know Him, but how can that mean that I should never try? It would offend Him to presume that He lies when He says that He wants us to know Him more than anything else in the world.