There are definitely things that Christians should not do. And engaging media is not one of them.
For Christians, it’s not a matter of, “Should I engage media or not?” but, “How do I go about engaging media in a Christlike way?” That’s a great question with many good and true answers. Here are just a few thoughts and a brief practical application.
It’s not unusual for someone to spend a good chunk of time engaging media every day. One site says that the average person spends over 5 years of their life on social media – and that’s just social media! You have to consider other forms of media as well. As technology and media communications advance and become more “normal,” it’s crucial for Christians to think critically and biblically when it comes to how to engage it faithfully.
Generally speaking, we can hear one Christian saying, “It’s all a waste of time. Don’t engage media at all,” while another Christian says, “I can engage media all I want. It’s no issue.” But both of those mindsets are unhealthy because they’re hitting extremes.
Two Practical Disciplines for Engaging Media Like a Christian
Here are two practical disciplines you can practice helping you think more critically and biblically before engaging media.
Firstly, think about gospel boundaries. As you know, a boundary is a limit or the specific point where something separates from something else. To be within gospel bounds is to live, talk, move, think, and engage media (etc.) without contradicting your belief in the gospel.¹ However, when you step over that boundary (and this could be involuntarily), you actually begin to live as though the gospel weren’t true.
For example, say your friend invited you over to play video games. Instead of just blindly engaging it, think about gospel boundaries. Ask yourself, “Can I live out the gospel that I believe in and engage this video game honestly with my friend?” More often than not, you can! But if the video game unashamedly promotes ungodly beliefs and behaviours, and this promotion outweighs any form of “art” or “creativity” the game may have, then in order to engage it you’d probably have to step over that gospel boundary.
As you can tell, the application of considering gospel boundaries when engaging media will be quite situational. It’s also important to remember that God sends certain Christians to specific areas of ministry that involve engaging media for the purpose of redeeming it and sharing God’s love to others.
Secondly, think about gospel intentions. To think about gospel intentions is to consider if doing something is in line with godly intentions and motivations. We have specific intentions with every action we do and every word we say – whether we cognitively think about it or not. The question to ask yourself is, “What are my intentions or motivations in watching this movie, posting this picture on Instagram, or playing this video game? And are these intentions or motivations reflective of the gospel?”
Again, like gospel boundaries, the application of considering gospel intentions will look different from person to person. Your intentions for posting a picture on Instagram may be wrong, whereas your friend’s intentions are right. We’ll be a healthier community of Christians if we settled on this.
It’s amazing how often we engage media blindly. For the most part, we don’t think critically and biblically enough; yet if we begin to think about gospel boundaries and gospel intentions before engaging media, we’ll notice a change.
That’s how you engage media like a Christian.
¹ The gospel is the good news that humanity can be reconciled to God and live eternally with him. To understand the gospel, one must know that God created the world for his glory and to share his love and blessing with creation, but humanity rebelled against him and were cursed – resulting in the spread of sin to all peoples. All people, therefore, await the righteous judgment of God. But God in his love provided a way to save people from their sins by coming to earth as his Son, Jesus Christ, living a perfect life of obedience, dying a humiliating death, rising out of the grave, and then ascending into heaven where he sits next to the Father. In his death, he took upon himself the sins of the world and the resulting condemnation, and in his resurrection, he proved his power and victory over sin and death. All people who believe in Jesus Christ and what he’s done will become a new creature who will have the righteousness of Jesus given to them. Because of the gospel, Christians daily reflect God, spread the news of the gospel, make disciples, and eagerly await the coming of Jesus when he will finally judge all creation.