Lately I’ve been preaching a series on the life of Samson. As you might recall, Samson lived his life under the Old Testament law’s Nazirite vow (Judges 13:5, Numbers 6:1-21). That vow had its definite particulars, but at its heart it was all about being separated from the world and unto God.
Christians today don’t live under Old Testament law, including the Nazirite vow, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t called to a life of separation. Please slow down right here and read the following passages carefully:
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4) (N.K.J.V)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anybody loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17) (N.K.J.V)
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?….Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean. And I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:14,17) (N.K.J.V.)
I couldn’t help but think about this whole subject of separation when I heard about the mass shooting that transpired in the Aurora, Colorado theater this past Friday night. 12 people were killed and 58 others were wounded at a packed midnight showing of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. And what was it the alleged shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, told police? Reportedly, he said, “I am the Joker.” Obviously he was referring to the Joker character that was depicted in the previous Batman film The Dark Knight. The now deceased Heath Ledger played that character and posthumously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more “worldly” character than Ledger’s Joker. Some of us remember the campy Batman t.v. series from the 1960s in which Caesar Romero played the Joker. Romero’s version was a clownishly silly prankster, nothing more than a Saturday-morning cartoon character brought to life. He never did any real harm, let alone kill anybody. Then came Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 blockbuster film Batman, a character that was darker and much more dangerous than Romero’s but still fairly lighthearted and prone to comic one-liners.
Ledger’s Joker, however, took the character to a heavy, sad, maniacally perverse corner. In an interview he gave not long before his death, Ledger described his Joker as, “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He also said of playing the role, “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.” He slept an average of two hours per night while filming. That led him to take prescription drugs, and it is commonly believed that it all contributed to his death at the age of 28 from an accidental overdose of a combination of his high-powered medicines.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Heath Ledger for the actions of James Holmes. The fact is that millions of people around the world saw Ledger’s The Dark Knight Joker and didn’t use it as motivation or inspiration to kill others. All I’m saying is that it is absurd to think that what you pour into your brain doesn’t have some effect on your mindsets, attitudes, opinions, worldviews, and, yes, to some degree actions. James Holmes is clearly a disturbed young man, one whose madness could have been set off by any number of things. But can anyone honestly tell me that him watching Heath Ledger’s Joker was an edifying, positive event in his life? Of course not.
The movie, television, and music industries love to churn out products that major on the negative aspects of human existence, things such as: sex, adultery, lust, homosexuality, rape, incest, profanity, drug abuse, alcoholism, murder, brutality, extortion, blackmail, gambling, lying, robbery, greed, corruption, and hypocrisy. The idea is that good, wholesome, moral entertainment just doesn’t have that pizzazz factor that creates buzz and wows the critics. But then the same industries want to wash their hands of any ill-effects their products might have on people. Executives say, “We’re just giving people what they want.” I suppose they are. However, they are also playing an undeniable role in helping people want the wrong things. It’s a two-way street.
As for God, He understands the human mind far better than we do, and so we ought to listen when His written word gives us counsel on the subject of entertainment. Consider the following three passages:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8) (N.K.J.V.)
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Corinthians 6:12) (N.K.J.V.)
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes… (Psalm 101:3) (N.K.J.V.)
And it is on the heels of these passages that I want to ask you a simple question: How does the entertainment that fills your life measure up to these passages? If your life is like mine, it could stand some tidying up in this area. Of course, I’m not the entertainment czar and couldn’t even begin to tell you what shows, movies, or songs are in bounds or out of bounds for you. But what I will say is that if you want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, the biblical call to separate yourself from the world has to come into play at certain points along the way. As I said, I don’t know precisely where those points are for you. Only God does. But the good news is that He will surely reveal them to you if you will ask Him.