God at the Movies is starting this week! I love that we do this series... It's a fun beginning to summer while keeping the mind engaged. Talking about movies at church opens "Jesus conversations" with people who otherwise might not think that church is of interest to them, so it's a great time to invite people! One of my favorite things is looking at tangible examples of parallels between the lives of those we read about in the Bible and our lives today. So as we get ready to start God at the Movies this year, I find myself looking back at the time of... King Saul.
1 Samuel 8:19-20 says, "But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. 'Even so, we still want a king,' they said. 'We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.'" The people of Israel, God's chosen, are rejecting God's leadership (again!) and demanding a king like the nations around them have. We sure like to judge those naughty Israelites, don't we? Why would they never learn their lesson about turning their backs on God?
In chapters 9 and 10, the prophet Samuel anoints Saul as king at the Lord's direction. Saul fit the "king like the nations around us" bill - tall and handsome (9:2), humble (9:21), not spotlight-seeking (10:22), and not easily offended (10:27). He even prophesies through the power of the Spirit of God (10:10)! How do you think the Israelites were feeling about their demand for a king during the beginning of Saul's reign? Relieved to "fit in"? Safe? Maybe smug?
But as the book continues, we see Saul descend from the highest of highs to lower than he had ever been before. He stops listening to God's messenger, turns away from direct instruction and warnings, and when God appoints a new king, Saul turns from appearing humble to prideful anger that consumes him. Now what are the people who were so desperate for a king thinking? That they needed to continue following a man who was looking more crazed by the day, or that they should return to following God as their King? That they made a mistake in their demand, or that God did in fulfilling it?
And what in the world does this have to do with God at the Movies?? What does poor decision-making from ancient Israelites have to do with us?
WE STILL DO THE SAME THING.
We shake our heads at the Jewish people of the Bible for their mistakes, but we're still doing the same things. God wanted them to follow and rely on Him, but they wanted a human king/leader. God wants us to follow Him, but we constantly turn our gaze to mere humans. In some ways, I think we're actually worse!
There are plenty of people today watching reality TV shows, or sports, or social media influencers, and "rooting for" someone because they are perceived as "Christian." We don't have a Samuel helping guide us, so where does that come from? It doesn't take long for the larger Christian community to rally around and raise that person/player/coach/guru/physicist up even higher... We put people in positions of veneration they (usually) didn't ask for, and start shaping our lives after them. Have you ever tried a new product because a podcaster recommended it? Bought a t-shirt because your favorite gamer likes it? Had an electrolyte drink despite not depleting your electrolytes? I've tried a weird coffee flavor because a character in a book liked it and I had to know why (I still don't know why, it was gross).
I'm not saying any of these things are bad on their own - God created us to have fun and enjoy life! But are we making sure that we keep our focus on who our King is? Am I discussing composers or neuroscientists or movie stars more than the Author of Life? Which do you have more memorized of, Bible verses or baseball stats?
And once we've elevated someone above where God called them, then what happens? Now the world looks to them as "the Christian __________." Now they're being held to another set of standards that they weren't made for. Now they can't go about their lives the same way other people do because they are subject to greater levels of scrutiny. And all too often, we see people who are famous for one thing or another go the same route as King Saul. They are elevated to celebrity status, only to be torn apart from inside themselves or by others when their humanity becomes apparent.
The God at the Movies series helps us build an important discipline - we are to view the world around us through God's eyes, not the other way around. That principle goes beyond just the media we consume itself, to the people behind the screen or news page. God made fun! He made talented people, and technology, and our very desire for entertainment. He also commands us not to create false idols, and seek Him above all else. He's with you at the movie theater - tune in to His voice!
Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart]. 1 John 5:21 AMP