In my youth, I was blessed to have several older Christians in my life, people who taught, mentored, and gave me advice for practical Christian living. One of the passages I often heard quoted from their lips was Philippians 4:8, where Paul writes:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Whenever this passage was brought up, it was usually as part of a discussion about the music a Christian should/should not listen to, the movies we screen, the television shows we consume, and the like. And I will confess that I did not always heed this advice as I should. I would alternate between a response of “Oh, don’t be a killjoy or fuddy-duddy” and “I can watch these shows or listen to this music without being negatively affected.”
As time passed, however, I realized the wisdom of Philippians 4:8. A Christian should be wary of the media he consumes. Garbage in, garbage out. One cannot help but be affected by the films, television, and music one consumes.
But now, sadly, it’s my turn to sit those same older Christians down and have a difficult conversation. I need you to hear anew the warning of the apostle Paul. I need you to take a long look at the media you are consuming.
You are spending too much time watching cable news. Stop.
CNN. MSNBC. Fox News. They are all the same in one major way. They all exist to profit off of high ratings. Before they are a dispassionate news-reporting entity, they are a ratings-driven, profit-making enterprise for their investors. And what garners higher ratings these days than extremist rhetoric, people yelling at each other, and the demonization of roughly 50% of America?
Can I tell you something you already know, but may be unwilling to accept? Cable news does not exist to help you love your fellow man. Cable news does not exist to help you draw closer to God. Cable news does not exist to help advance the purposes of the Gospel. Stop watching cable news because very little of it is pure, lovely, or commendable.
You are spending too much time on Facebook. Stop.
This is a warning to everyone, regardless of age. But every one of us would do well to spend a little less time on Facebook. This is not a platform that unites, but rather divides us. There have been studies proving that Facebook merely leaves us more entrenched in our political/religious opinions, rather than fostering an atmosphere of willingness to listen to the other side. If anything, the rampant sharing of fake news, false information, and propaganda by Christians—the very people who should champion truth—is enough to call for a Facebook diet.
Facebook has also created a false reality in that everyone else seems to be living a better, more fulfilling life than you are. Facebook-induced depression or despondency is a thing. But God did not create you in his image and invest you with blessings for you to go around comparing yourself to everyone else. And humanity has been doing that from time immemorial, but Facebook has exacerbated it. Maybe spend a little less time on Facebook because very little of it is pure, lovely, or commendable.
Except for pictures of little kids and puppies. Those are adorable.
You are spending too little time in the Word and in face-to-face conversation with those different from you.
Each week, I conduct the Teaching Rocket seminar at two different churches in the U.S. Each week, I see evidence that biblical literacy is on the decline. Fewer people are reading their Bible regularly. In fact, fewer people are READING anything at all, if you don’t count Facebook and other social media platforms.
Seasons of spiritual bankruptcy vs. spiritual vibrancy in my life have always been tied to seasons when I did vs. did not study the Bible regularly. And I believe that to be true of everyone.
There is also something to be said for regularly sitting down with people who are very different from you and conversing with them about life, hobbies, political and religious convictions, and any number of other things. You might learn something. Enter into the experience, not to have your own mind changed on an issue, but to understand more fully why someone believes what they believe.
In the current times we live in, what if Christians became known as reasonable, respectful truth-tellers? What if we became known as people who strive for the things that are honorable, just, and pure. What if, when people of the world thought of Christians, they thought of words like “lovely” and “commendable.” Yes, I know Jesus says the world will always hate us. But what if we did our part to try and change things? The way things are going now, we aren’t doing that.
Spend more time with people different than you. Share a cup of coffee with someone and spend time face-to-face. Stop watching cable news. Stop spending so much time on Facebook.
Garbage in? Garbage out.