Two small children sit entranced in front of a big box TV set. The doorbell rings, and Mom greets the garbage man in a friendly and familiar way. He carries a big trash can into the home, nonchalantly opens the TV, and dumps in a load of garbage. Polite banter with the mom, and then he exits with a “See ya next week!” The kids never move.
When I was a young child, I watched my cartoons on a network provided by a Christian TV station, and the scenario described above was a frequent commercial. I puzzled over it as a child, not understanding the underlying message, which could be summed up in the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
As a mature believer now, I get it. My husband and I are right in the middle of The Netflix Generation, those of us who have a multitude of TV shows available at the push of a button. Even if we opt out of cable TV, we now have streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime available. We are the generation that has formalized the term “binge watching.”
My husband was a movie buff before we met, and I am a book nerd. We love culture, drama, theater, and the arts. We are in the ministry, yet we like the same things as other people: humor, drama, loveable characters, suspense, action, mystery.
We, too, have binge-watched, and we have regretted our decisions. Tired mornings, conviction and spiritual stupor seem to be the pay-off for the times we have over-indulged in a favorite show. We have started multiple Netflix series, hailed by Christians and non-Christians alike as the best of the best, only to break-up with our favorite characters due to conviction.
We must draw the line somewhere.
It’s tricky, that line. We find that each one of us is sensitive to different types of content, and we are careful to respect each other’s needs. We pray for discernment and when we fall into a rut of TV-watching every night, we step back and recover some time to be a couple, talking and connecting.
But it takes discipline. With four small children, it takes discipline not to just fall on the couch each night when the last one is in bed and completely check out. We’ve had seasons that was just all we could do, and God has grace for us in those times. It takes intentional effort to connect.
So what fuels this effort?
Certainly not fear that we will be disqualified from our salvation through sin. We do sin and fall short and make poor choices, including what we watch on TV. We understand that we are made holy through the blood and righteousness of Christ. His atonement is our payment. What we do does not disqualify us from the inheritance He purchased for us. We sin, and our final punishment is paid. We no longer fear relational separation.
But it still matters. The content we watch on TV enters our eyes, our mind, our hearts, and our lives. It appeals to our flesh and our senses, which continue to be stained by sin until we die. What we watch can certainly lead us astray from the powerful, holy life Christ died to give us. Our TV screens offer us a taste of every kind of evil the world has to offer, made to look appealing. Sin looks glamorous. Clever experts design shows that appeal to our appetites. Our flesh will not protest these indulgences; the discipline must arise from the Spirit within us.
Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
We reap eternal life now when we choose the Spirit over the flesh. This doesn’t mean we feel guilt over every evening of relaxation, but it does mean we practice discernment and stay alert and aware to the balance in our lives. Investing in our relationships is not as comfortable as flopping mindlessly on the couch, but we can have absolute confidence that God will bless our efforts. We will reap a bountiful harvest.
And while we do not fear final separation from our heavenly Father, we know that our pursuit of holiness helps us draw near to Him. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord.” His discipline comes through consequences; we reap what we sow.
For those of us in The Netflix Generation, we can choose to redefine ourselves. We don’t have to be defined by the shows that we watch or the hours wasted. We can reap a new harvest and a new identity as we strive to put our treasure and our minds where we want our hearts to be.
It happens one night at a time.
What do you consider as you watch television?