News Media and Spiritual Formation
We are all being shaped by various influences in our lives. A couple of important questions we must ask therefore is: how am I being formed? Who or what is influencing my thoughts, attitudes, desires, words and actions?
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul wrote,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We can fall into the trap of being conformed to this world in a number of ways. One of the ways I find troubling in our present time is the way Christians are being conformed to the world through the influence of news media and political pundits.
Politics and the role of government are an important part of our lives. We should care about these matters and engage in the way the Bible instructs us. As we do so we need to guard our hearts and minds recognizing that we are not immune to falling into the sinful patterns of the world. We also need to remind ourselves that the news media and political commentators have no agenda to help us engage in a way that honors Jesus.
Conservative news media and political commentators are successful when they make conservatives angry with or fearful of liberals. Conversely, liberal news media and commentators are successful when they make liberals angry with or fearful of conservatives.
In this way, it feels as though the popular political voices on the right and left are undermining the work of pastors and the biblical purposes we are pursuing. Let me explain.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment in the law, he responded by saying,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to love the Lord with our entire being and love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus even commanded us to love our enemies. As those who have been saved by Jesus, our lives are to be marked by a deep and abiding love for God and love for others. The elders of RRC are praying and working to see our church family grow in our obedience to these commands.
But the voices on the right and the left are not interested in helping us grow in our love for the Lord and they seem especially disinterested in helping us grow in our love for our neighbors who don’t share their views. It is highly unlikely that your preferred news source desires to help you become increasingly conformed to the image of Jesus and grow in your love for your enemies. On the contrary, their agenda usually involves getting you angry enough to mobilize you to their desired ends.
In light of this, I exhort you to be on guard. I do not mean that you should not pay any attention to the news. I do think it is helpful for Christians to be aware and informed regarding what is taking place around us so that we can be engaged as the salt and light in the world. But don’t make the mistake of overestimating the importance of news media for understanding the world while underestimating the importance of the Bible for understanding the world. Moreover, be on guard and exercise discernment when you consume the news and political commentary recognizing the manipulative tactics being used, even by the sources you tend to agree with. If our consumption of the news leads us to become condescending or angry toward certain people that is a problem. If our consumption of the news leads us to become fearful of the future that is also a problem.
Brothers and sisters, I want to challenge you with some tough questions that I hope you will take time to consider in order to help you discern how you are being influenced by news media. Here they are: Are you better at parroting your preferred political commentator than you are at speaking the profound and life-giving truths of the gospel? How much time do spend watching, reading and listening to news and political commentary compared with the time you spend in the God’s word? Do the political posts you share hinder your brothers and sisters in Christ from growing in their love for those with whom they disagree? Do your posts cause other Christians to fear or despise “the other side”? Are you fearful of certain political outcomes thus betraying a confidence in God’s sovereignty over the nations? Do you have an ominous view of the future that betrays a belief in the biblical teaching regarding our future? Is your consumption of news media helping or hindering your walk with Christ?
I hope we all agree that our political convictions must be shaped by God’s Word. I hope we also see that we gain NOTHING if we have all of the right political convictions but have not love (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).
So, how are you being formed? Once again, I want to encourage you to guard against being conformed to the pattern of this world by news media and political commentators and instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind. One important piece of evidence that we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds is that we will be growing in our love for those with whom we disagree much to the dismay of political commentators on the right and left.