We live in an age of constant, instantaneous, never-far-from, and ever-imposing digital glitz and glam. Many pixels have been spilt on how our attention to media and its delivery systems have shaped us. One of the chief results of our media-intaking moment is a rise in distracted behavior. I don’t mean those fleeting thoughts that whisper through your mind’s focus before vaporizing into your sub-conscience. No, I mean activities or pursuits, no matter how large or small, whether they are internal or external, that draw you away from your responsibilities.
We admit to being distracted drivers, employees, parents, students, friends, spouses, and more… we even distract ourselves from our own media intake when we put a show on just to sit on the couch and scroll through Twitter! All this to say, I fear we are more and more becoming distracted Christians. God has called us to faithfully love Him and love others and I fear our phones, devices, app, leisure pursuits, etc. have pulled us away from those great responsibilities.
Distraction is ultimately a heart issue. Contrary to what we may believe about distraction (it is unavoidable, it is just a mental hurdle, or it is a neutral occurrence), we must understand that it is our heart’s values, desires, and loves that stoke the fires of distraction. When you check your email during Sunday worship, when you allow your mind to wander to MLB, NFL, MLS, NHL, or NBA stats in the middle of prayer, when you answer texts during a face-to-face conversation, when your devotional time is dotted by phone glances and notification checks, when you build your work day around YouTube instead of your work, or when you put in more effort into your house than your marriage you are loving and thus prioritizing the diversion over God and your God-given responsibilities. Scarily enough, this is because you believe the distraction is better than God and His call on your life.
Samson was distracted from his responsibilities too, not by phones and emails but by his heart’s desire for women and reputation. In Judges 13 an angel comes to Samson’s soon to be parents and tells them that they will miraculously have a son. This miracle son will be a Nazarite before God and his God-given purpose will be to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. But as Samson lives he is marked more by womanizing and selfish revenge than faithfulness to God and his God-given responsibility – in fact, as the story unfolds he spends more time in Philistine territory pursuing Philistine woman and vindicating his own reputation than he does helping Israel. Why? Because he loved these things more than he loved God’s call in his life. Samson, while pursuing his first Philistine wife, fully admits this when he says that “she is right in my eyes”!
How similar are you to Samson and his passion for anything but God’s goals? Regrettably, I already know your answer because it is the same as mine – you are like Samson. We give in to the lie that our things and purposes are higher than God’s and that belief diverts our focus away from God. The only hope of being an undistracted Christian is to look to the cross where Jesus was laser focused on loving God and loving us to the point of death. At the cross, Christ made the believer righteous and sufficient to actually love God and others. At the cross, Christ provided all that we need and pursue after. At the cross, Christ secured our identity in Him no matter our faithfulness or lack there of. At the cross, Christ became our only source of salvation, and by it also became the perfect model of what our lives ought to look like in light of salvation. Just as Christ laid down His life for God’s purposes and to love us sinners, we also must die in order to love God and others. Believers lay down their lives, desires, values, and priorities in order to exalt God, His purposes, and the needs of others.
Take some time, away from your normal avenues of distraction, to consider how your daily distractions are an expressions of your heart. Consider what it looks like to lay down your life (i.e. your devices, leisure, pursuits) to refocus on your God-given responsibilities. Consider how Christ’s focus on the glory of God prepares you to change your habits to focus on God’s glory. Consider how you will fail at this and how repentance and faith is key to trusting God with the desires of your heart.