The other morning in prayer a tune kept popping up in my mind, unbidden ‘a palavra, a palavra, a palavra do Senhor’. It was stubbornly persistent, as it had been in the course of the previous day as I went about my business. For the truly puzzled the words are Portuguese and mean ‘the word, the word, the word of the Lord’. No it was not the Holy Spirit giving me extra sensory supernatural revelation on the importance of the word of God. It is rather more prosaic, I was being relentlessly dogged by a Brazilian gospel song I have played in my car a few times, no more than four and which decided to stick, as things do. Yes, things do stick to us, more than we realise or care to admit; the things we listen to, the things we watch, the things we hang around, they stick and remain to people our minds and mould our thoughts, and consequently our lives.
All communication is influence. As Christians we need to be conscious of the influence things have on us and consequently make a deliberate effort to choose the right influences and give the wrong ones a wide berth. If we foolishly subject ourselves to multiple unholy influences in song, in movie, in magazines, in books, on the internet; laugh with delight at the antics or weep at the very moving story of endearing characters peddling a lifestyle at the antithesis of our faith, we are allowing them to chip away at our own values and are slipping into a gradual acceptance of and indifference towards sin; our convictions become blurred. Witness the number of believers who have lost all sense of absolute right and wrong, of the uniqueness of Christ and are confused about what the Bible says or does not say and whether they believe it or not.
We are a strange people. We spend our week hearing another ‘gospel’ preached with every song we soak ourselves in and every programme we watch. Then, steeped in worldliness and unbelief we show up in the church on Sunday, expecting to connect with God and wonder why it does not happen. We put our money in the offering ‘sow our seed’, sit back in our pews and the unfortunate Minister had better perform wonders, lift our spirits, restore our dead souls and turn us into mighty men and women of God or else… Mission impossible; for an alien tune is playing more loudly in our ears and drowning out other voices as it has been feeding us more than the word of God has in the course of the week; and it is a persistent tune.
Just as persistent as my song, ‘A palavra do Senhor’, in itself utterly harmless, even beneficial I would say, yet a more unsavoury tune would have stuck around all the same and shifted me slightly in its direction. And that is where the problem lies. Surely there must be someone else out there who will say it is time we denied the right to the pretty people of ‘pleasurewood’, actors, writers, directors, the whole tribe, with their dubious moral values, and existential distress I cannot even begin to fathom to determine what we may believe, think, feel, do. We are God’s people; there are many things in life you have no power over, but you have power over your mind, and who and what you subject it to and allow to wield power over it. You have power to refuse to be manipulated by sweet stories, soulful tunes and slick images into calling good evil and evil good; you have the power of choice. Choose wisely.