We live in an age of entertainment. On our smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions, an almost limitless array of entertainment options is at our fingertips every day.
Our family subscribes to a couple video streaming applications. There are thousands upon thousands of shows and movies we can watch on demand. Or we can turn to YouTube to watch videos about just about any topic under the sun, or create our own radio stations with services like Pandora.
We have more entertainment than we know what to do with! However, even with all of these options, there are still times when we say things like, “There’s nothing to watch!” At our house, this usually means “I’m tired of watching the same sort of shows. Let’s just turn the screens off.” (Does that ever happen at your house?)
In an age of entertainment, we can easily slip into the habit of evaluating just about everything in life on how fun or enjoyable it is or isn’t. Visiting with an elderly relative? “I don’t have the patience for that,” some say. Playing old-fashioned board games? “That’s too boring,” we might think. Going to a park or a playground? “There’s nothing to do there,” kids whine. Attending worship at church? “That’s not much fun,” say many Christians.
It’s easy to base our thoughts and opinions about our own congregation or other churches on the basis of what we personally like and don’t like, or how enjoyable it is to attend services and other church activities. A worship service may or may not keep you on the edge of your seat. However, it’s important to remember that our Lord’s purposes for His church go far beyond entertainment.
While church life includes enjoyable times, ultimately we come together in Christian worship for this dual purpose: receiving our Lord’s gracious gifts and responding to Him in prayer and praise.
Sometimes church experiences can be fun, like when we get to play games and sing catchy songs at Vacation Bible School. Sometimes we connect with new people, or reconnect with old friends. We gather together to learn about God and His Word and grow in understanding His amazing grace and His will for our daily lives.
Yet, sometimes church can be challenging, such as when we focus on a portion of God’s Word which calls us to discipleship or which shows us our sin. There are times when Christians experience peacefulness and cooperation, and unfortunately, there are also times when our sinfulness manifests itself through conflict, division, selfishness, or the like. While Christians are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are still sinners and our sinfulness can hurt and disappoint our fellow members of the church. That is why we need to keep gathering together at the foot of Christ’s cross, seeking His forgiveness for our souls and His peace for our relationships.
In a little detail from Christ’s suffering and passion, we actually find some entertainment seekers in the Bible. They were the Roman soldiers (Luke 23:34b). One Christian song, referring to Jesus’ executioners, is entitled, “Playing Games at the Foot of the Cross.” (Click here to listen to a rendition of the song on YouTube.)
Imagine that! As the Son of God is dying above them on the cross, they were passing the time by gambling for Jesus’ clothes – His only earthly belongings. But Luke’s Gospel shares an even more amazing detail: “When they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for the know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:33-34a)
Imagine that! As these soldiers callously played games to divvy up Jesus’ garments, Jesus was praying for them and for their forgiveness, but not only for them, but for all those responsible for Jesus’ suffering and death – including you and me.
The truth is, we’re guilty of seeking other things more than our Lord – entertainment, pleasure, admiration … But here’s the Good News: Jesus prays for us, “Father, forgive them.” Let’s join in thanking and praising our Savior this Lenten season for His forgiving love toward us!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Kory Janneke