April 1, 2018

In this issue: Distracted Living by Morris Fraser

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It is commonplace today that people are distracted in their everyday activities. Much of that distraction is driven by modern technology – wireless devices that can be used anywhere, from sitting at home to behind the wheel of a car (we hear regularly of “distracted driving”) to walking down the street (termed “distracted walking”). And because that distracting behavior can disrupt others’ lives, the distracted people are criticized, sometimes unjustly but sometimes deservedly.

Distraction is not a new phenomenon. Once upon a time, when automobiles did not automatically come with amenities such as radios and heaters, it was not uncommon that drivers would not play the radio for fear of not hearing an approaching police or fire siren, or because their interest in the program might keep them from noticing a crossing pedestrian. (Multi-tasking was not a word or even much of a concept in those halcyon days.)

But distractions occurred long before automobiles were popular. In fact, the Bible recounts several examples of distractions among God’s people that resulted in sin.

After the Israelites entered Canaan and destroyed Jericho, they moved on to a small city called Ai. But they failed there because their brother Achan had stolen goods from Jericho (Joshua 7) and hidden them.

King David was entranced by Bathsheba (II Samuel 11-12), causing her husband to be killed in battle and eventually seeing their infant child die.

The apostle Peter, entrusted with delivering the gospel message first to the Jews (Acts 2) and then to the Gentiles (Acts 10), on three separate occasions failed in his loyalty to Christ.

First (Matthew 14:30), he attempted, at the beckoning of Jesus, to walk on the water away from his fishing boat but was distracted by the wind and began to sink.

Second (Luke 22:54-62), he was fearful of the people surrounding a captive Jesus during the night of his trial and denied three times he knew the Christ, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy.

Third, (Galatians 2:11-13), he left the company of Gentiles when Jews arrived from James and the church at Jerusalem, a hypocritical effort that swayed others and resulted in Paul’s criticism of him.

In each of these examples, the central characters were distracted – Achan by treasures he was not to have; David by the beauty of Bathsheba, a married woman; and Peter by the threat of immediate physical harm, the fear of physical attack, and the desire to please those who might disagree with his legitimate actions.

We are calling these instances “distractions,” but they also are legitimately temptations, and we can assign blame for them not only to the individuals involved but to Satan (II Corinthians 11:12-15).

If these people, some of whom are held up to us as righteous individuals, fell under distractions/temptations because of their own weaknesses and the influence of Satan, surely we are not immune in this present age.

As we face the secular challenges of distracted driving, we also face the spiritual dangers inherent in distracted living, which really are just the results of temptations. As we explore those distractions, we also must point out that they may not be evil within themselves. But when we let them distract us from walking as Christians, they become something to be wary of.

In this modern age of extensive information-gathering and distribution, we learn of events that seem to add to our worries. Shootings, sexual misbehavior, political upheavals all insinuate themselves into our consciousness. We hear continual opinions from all sides of innumerable debates and tend to accept our favorites and act accordingly. This may or may not be appropriate, but when our opinions run afoul of God’s teachings, we should step back and examine ourselves as to whether we are acting in a Christian manner.

Television has become a strong force in our lives, for better or worse. We learn from it, are entertained by it and form some of our ideas based on what we see and hear from influential sources. But when we decide to watch TV rather than worship God, we let that medium distract us from our proper spiritual duty.

Movies have been a significant part of our lives for well over 100 years. Many are relaxing and entertaining in a good way. But as the American culture has become less restrictive and more sinful, movies have followed suit. Sexual “freedom,” anger “mismanagement” and violent scenes can’t help but affect those who watch them. Surely they distract us – all individuals as well as Christians – from keeping our minds on things above.

Almost everyone will agree that having jobs to support our families is a worthwhile endeavor. But it is not unheard of that workers focus so much on their employment that they let worship slide to second or third place in their lives. That should not be so. The same goes for hobbies, personal interests, sports, secular friendships and any other activity that separates us from devotion to God.

Living a Christian life can be seen as walking a fine line between what we enjoy and what we should do as saints. There is no reason we can’t enjoy being a Christian. But sometimes we have to choose between what we know is righteous and what distracts us from the Christian life. ~

Morris Fraser

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