How many things do you see every day that you have never actually observed? Our brains process countless pieces of information every second, so the common and ordinary things in our surroundings often fail to make it to the forefront of our thought process. Yet normative things are extraordinarily powerful in shaping our principal perspective on life. Entire lifestyles and worldviews are constructed on what we see but never observe. The trouble is this: we have grown so accustomed to seeing things that don’t align with truth that we don’t even notice how much they are negatively affecting our worldviews anymore.
What we choose to look at has something to do with our inward condition. The eyes are a gateway to our heart – and once our heart has been exposed to dysfunction it can easily develop into a deadly condition called ‘lust’. Lust is, by definition, misplaced desire. It is channeling the craving intended for our Creator to the things He created. And as a photograph blown out of proportion becomes pixelated, lust makes a blurry mess of a stunning picture. According to James 1:14-15, once we are drawn after lust it conceives sin in us and ultimately gives birth to death. Lust is the very thing that paralyzes us in our pursuit of loving God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: much of the lust we face is the product of the media that comes from the thing on your desk, the thing at the center of your living space, and the thing in your hand. These messages are much more subliminal than we usually acknowledge but they are very intentional. Nearly every piece of media is promoting something and we would be best served to figure out exactly what it is. Here are a few areas in which we can easily be drawn toward the creation rather than the Creator.
Sex is a beautiful thing, a satisfying thing. It was God’s idea, His design. It is an intimate union between a man and a woman that have committed to each other for life. It celebrates the beauty of two becoming one – and in doing so paints a very vivid picture of the kind of intimacy and unity that should fill up our relationship with God and with our spouse. Our popular culture illustrates, elevates, and accentuates an opposing view. Sex, they say, is whatever you want it to be. It’s a casual thing, a same gender thing, an extra-marital thing, a 'you are missing out if you only have one partner' thing, a 'look but don’t touch' thing, basically anything. It is the best tool for marketing. The truth is, the more we see of this worldview the more calloused we become to it. And if we allow the picture I described to shape our worldview, we will eventually succumb to sexual sin. Jesus says anyone who has looked upon a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. This shouldn’t be taken as a statement of condemnation from Jesus, rather as an insight into where sexual sin begins – in the eyes. We are far too liberal with what we allow our eyes to allow our minds to allow our hearts to imagine and desire.
Most mainstream TV shows and movies follow people who have money OR a high sense of fashion OR an elite intellect OR a relentless pursuit of power OR all of the above. When our eyes are continually focused on people who are more affluent than us, more elite than us, more powerful than us, and more famous than us, we begin to naturally assume that these are the stepping stones toward influence. And since we all want influence, we tend to be drawn toward aligning our lives with these things. If there were no billboards, magazine ads, and commercials, would we be continually drawn toward the upgrade? Would we be satisfied with the phone in our pocket, the food on our table, the car in our garage, and the clothes in our closet? Influence is powerful, but power is not influence. True influence is grounded in relationship – namely that our relationship with our Father teaches us how to interact with the rest of humanity and creation. Money, fashion, intellect, and power are all very attractive things but they cannot produce the fruit of true influence.
None of us have any significance in this grand story apart from our relation to its central character… so if we immerse ourselves in a media culture that continually expresses that humans can find and/or make something good apart from God, we will eventually become numb to the reality that there is in fact no true life apart from Him. Dreams were given to us so we could become participants in God's meta-narrative -- not so we could compose our own. We should take seriously our role as sub-creators but so much of our media culture demonstrates a half truth about art, ambition, expansion, etc. These things are all beautiful and godly when lived out in the context of God’s centrality but are damaging when used selfishly. Even then we see some semblance of truth within them. The media itself discloses the devastating brokenness that lies in the wake of pursuing your dreams without the link to the central character. They call it reality. It is reality. Everything we would wish to build freestanding of God’s centrality becomes a reproducer of our own dysfunction. Look around.
Jesus invites us to see the world through a new lens – He came to ‘bring recovery of sight to the blind’. You might have heard it said, “I once was blind, but now I see”. We are all blinded by what our human eyes see but never observe. No one should be more perceptive as to what is really going on the world than followers of Jesus. It is through His perspective that we can see things as they ought to be.