A Grieving Heart
To the youth of the Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church and their Christian friends:
My pastoral heart is grieving over you.
Every so often I survey your blogs and scan your Facebook pages. Why? You are in the flock I am charged by Christ to keep, one who has to "watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account" (Hebrews 13:17). I am not snooping in your private letters or peeking in your journals. I am looking at the witness you have chosen to advertise about yourself to the world through the internet. It is your testimony to a watching world. And to be honest, after spending some time doing so this morning, I feel sick to my stomach.
Certainly I saw bright spots of youthful enthusiasm for the church, encouraging interaction with others, and devotion to the Lord expressed. Yet I also see that our culture is awash in the sewage of a God-hating media, and many of you are at least giving the appearance of floating along and enjoying the ride.
Why would I say that? It was Jesus who said that what comes out of your mouth comes out of your heart (Matthew 15:18). I'm just taking Facebook at face value. Blogging stands for "web logging," so is it wrong of me to assume what you are writing there is accurately chronicling what you think and what you have done? According to Jesus, then, this is what is on your heart:
Look at how many R-rated movies you or your friends have listed as favorites. Do you really mean to use your internet space to promote publicly these films with their shameful scenes and blasphemous expletives? If even the world blushes a bit in rating a movie as sexual or violent, how can you not be ashamed to say to all your friends, "This is one of my favorites"? You appear to be engrossed with promoting what comes out of Hollywood. That's the witness you want to have?
Consider the lyrics and lifestyles of the music groups. What if I used my blog to record the antics and lyrics of these groups, then typed your name next to them as one who gives public endorsement? Do not try to excuse yourself by saying, "Just because I list a rock group does not mean I endorse all they do." You and I both know that when we see the guy walk by wearing a T-shirt with Linkin Park or Smashing Pumpkins on it, he is not just promoting the one or two half-decent songs ("decent" here not describing the quality of the music but its lyrical content) on their latest CD. He is advertising the group. And so are you when you list a group under "Favorite Music" on Facebook.
You show little regard for Jesus' promise, "I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they will give an accounting for it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36). Before you say you really believe our Lord's word here, go back and read some of your "Wall-to-Wall" exchanges the way your parents, teachers or elders would. I saw comments belittling people you think no one else can figure out, complaining about school, quoting movies and songs regularly but rarely the Bible, making suggestive comments, showing times when you were supposed to be in school or at work, etc. "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise," yet your mouths runneth over for all to see. If this seems a bit harsh, you recorded it! And it is written in His book also.Don't get me wrong. You youth at Sycamore RPC are wonderful young people. I love you and want you to grow in wisdom and righteousness. I want you to shine forth with Christ, not the culture!
Now I can hear the protests to the above, only because I have heard them before:
"Mr. York, you are taking this, like, way too serious. This is just for fun. I have quiet times each day and I do love the Lord."
I do not doubt your love for Christ. I'm just calling you to a truer experience of it. And since when is the Christian life, in all its realms, not to be taken seriously (see Matthew 10:38-39)? Fun that denies Christ and His ways is not lawful fun.
"Mr. York, you are saying then that we should not watch any movie that has any immodesty, cursing, or violence? Only G-rated movies will do, huh? Is that not being legalistic?
That, my friend, is called the "straw man argument." Building my position back on a false foundation in order to ridicule it so as to make my points above appear invalid. First, note that my main point is that by posting these things on the internet you are witnessing in their favor. It is one thing to have heard a group; it is another to call it one of your favorites. Next, my concerns are aimed at the time, energy, and heart of your generation being devoted to the media culture. Also, the acceptable amount of "immodesty, cursing, or violence" any given movie may have depends on so many variables (age of viewer, purpose for viewing, way the director presents it, personal sensitivities, etc) that wisdom is needed in deciding on whether to watch a film or not. Finally, the previous sentence is still no excuse for the pervasive nudity, crudity and lewd-ity in many of the movies I saw listed. To outlaw all would indeed be legalistic; but to allow all is licentiousness.
"Mr. York, I have heard that your family - even you! - has watched some of the movies you seem to be so upset about. With all due respect, you being a pastor and all, does that not make you a bit hypocritical?"
I'll be the first to admit I have watched movies I later regretted viewing. When convicted of this, I told the others with me, sought forgiveness, and will not allow that movie to be watched again in my home. I do not agree with all the listings of my family members on the internet, and where I have the ability to change it I do. And I'll gladly make you a deal. Whatever movie you are concerned about that I have watched, please tell me. I'll remove it from my list but anticipate that you will also remove it from yours (Matthew 7:4-5).
At one time in his ministry Jonathan Edwards, pastor in Northampton, MA, during the Great Awakening, printed a public list of youth in the church who were reading inappropriate books. Though it made him highly unpopular and was one of the factors leading to his dismissal, these youth were disciplined for their wrongful behavior. Instead of protesting or making things difficult for the congregation, my dear young friends, listen. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom" (James 4:8-9). For if this lowly undershepherd is grieving, is not the True Shepherd of your soul? And if He is grieving, should you not be?