Emerald is twenty-two months old now, and she has really been enjoying following the new cat around. She walks behind the cat, talking all the way, singing, and laughing. When the cat sits down, so does Emerald. She loves to get as close to the kitty as possible, and she kind of goes back and forth between being afraid of the cat and wanting to smother her with an overenthusiastic love.
Sometimes when the cat flops down someplace, Emerald will lie down on her round toddler belly and reach chubby fingers out to pet the her. She really seems taken by that beautiful silky fur, the golden eyes, and the cute pink sparkly collar. Sometimes she goes so far as to follow the kitty on her hands and knees, meowing as if they are sisters.
So far the cat has taken all of this fairly well. She allows the petting and the poking and the loud talking and giggling most of the time. But, there have been a few times when Emerald was in the kitty’s face or petting her a little too vigorously, when the cat just reached out her paw and scratched that cute chubby hand.
Each time it happens Emerald runs to me, crying, holding up her hand for me to see it and kiss it and assure her that the kitty is still her friend. I point out those sharp claws that she needs to watch out for. And each time she gets scratched, she is afraid of the cat for awhile. She won’t get close to those claws, remembering how they hurt her not long ago.
But, after a night’s sleep she generally seems to have forgotten all about the scratches, and she starts in again the exact same way, following the cat around, petting her, imitating her, generally focused on being near her at all times.
While I watched Emerald meowing along behind the cat this morning, I was struck by how her relationship with the cat looks a lot like the Christian’s relationship with the world. We’re attracted to the things of Earth because they’re pretty. They’re fun. They entertain us and give us interesting things to look at and chase after and imitate. So, we bring these things into our homes and we play with them, and sit as close to them as possible, and we giggle and we enjoy them.
And, while we do this, we realize that there are lots of things in the world that are good and virtuous and teach us important lessons that are not necessarily “Christian” things. Art, for instance, books, movies, television shows, music, fashion, technology. It’s okay to like and appreciate and enjoy those things.
But, there is real danger in the things of this world. There seems to be dispute about this among Christians, but let me be the one to say this to you very clearly and concisely: there is no comparison between the things of this world and the things of God. They are not equally beneficial. When we invite worldly things into our lives and the lives of our children, we should do so with great caution and extreme care. Because when the world comes into our homes, we are letting our children play with it the way Emerald plays with the cat. And, it is inevitable that the scratches will come. Some things we invite in–television shows, for example– might cause some pain and conviction in our hearts. But, other things, like unfiltered access to pornography on cell phones and computers, are equal to inviting a full-grown tiger into your home and allowing your family to play with it. And, it doesn’t have to be officially qualified as pornography to have the same horrible effects on the minds and spirits of you and your loved ones. Many things on television and in movies and in books and in music are easy ways to allow your soul to be mauled by the one who, incidentally, the Bible says is prowling around, ready to devour you.
The attitude that “art” can teach us things about God while directly conflicting with His word has got to be Satan’s favorite lie of our day. It’s such an easy way to get Christians to lose focus. Our goal is humble holiness, and there are just some things that this world offers that directly conflict with that goal. When we play with the tiger in the living room, we are going to get hurt.
So, we need to be careful and evaluate with all seriousness the value of each worldly influence we allow into our homes. Many things are beautiful, touching, and interesting. But, we should not be fooled into thinking that an unbelieving world has things to teach us about God. His word is sufficient. Romans 12:2 says this:
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (MSG)
If we want to be changed, if we want to kick the tiger out of the living room, we can do it by fixing our attention on God and responding to His word. This means we have to carefully evaluate what we allow into our homes. Sure, we may be called prudes, but if that’s the worst thing that happens to us today, I’d say we have it pretty good.
And, when Emerald runs to me with her next scratch, I’ll kiss it and hug her and remind her that her friend has claws.