“Getting into shape,” or “shaping up,” is a top of mind goal for many at the beginning of a new year, and some have just finished their first round with a new diet or workout regimen as they attempt to settle in to healthier habits. Through these “resolutions” we are reminded of the importance of stewarding and shaping our physical bodies, also at about this time each year we are tested as to how committed we are to that ongoing process.
But what about our resolve to shape our minds? And what about shaping a more just and loving culture around us? Check out this article written for A World Free by our friend Sarah Scott Pape on being Shaped.
by Sarah Scott Pape
No previous generation has had the abilities or access that we do. No previous generation has the myriad of media to absorb that we do. Since the technology of this day and age is so markedly advanced, and since these advancements provide instant access to a torrent of grave threats (even for all the great opportunities), and since this combination presents a host of issues to navigate as Christian individuals, leaders, and parents, it is only natural for believers to cower.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new?’ It has been already in the ages before us.” — Ecclesiastes 1:10
Though we are tempted to tremble in this way, there remains great hope and consolation in these truths—that there is nothing new under the sun, that our God has seen this before.
Today, as always, we are infatuated with images. In the same way that Nebuchadnezzar erected an image of himself to be revered and worshipped in the Babylonian empire, we too erect images of ourselves to be recognized and admired among our community and culture. Everything we do—from the outfits we wear, to the cars we drive, to the lunches we pack for our children— further cultivates an image.
This is not entirely condemnable; we all have images, whether we want one or not, and collectively all of our images make up the larger image of our culture. What we look like, what we value, how we behave all forms this image. So the question is not how to tear down this image, but rather
what is shaping these images—both our individual image and the collective image of our culture?
Tech and media are tools that certainly shape us, and our use of them reveals our motives and choices. They are tools we engage with our time and talent, and the motives and manners of that engagement create outputs that shape the universe of our minds as well as the cosmos around us. Technology and media both reflect and shape our culture.
Remember, nothing is new here. As we look back at more primitive forms of entertainment, such as gladiator games, we are aghast. We wonder in shock how they could exploit and murder for entertainment. What does that suggest about their culture? How did they become so callous to conviction? Have they any value in the sanctity of life? We find it barbaric and debasing.
But how far have we really come? The arenas may look different, but through our digital portals we still gather around to watch individuals enter in and cunningly scheme how to take each other down. We clamor for juicy scandals, adulterous relationships, illicit plot lines, rooting for some to win and others to lose. We have been conditioned to tolerate and accept this sort of entertainment because it has been normalized. We are apathetic—literally without feeling, without suffering. Such apathy reorients us from love to lust; it redefines vices using the language of virtues.
We will be filled with and we will be shaped by…something. It is only a matter of what.
As we consider how to create and cultivate an image that reflects the people of God, submitted to Him and in the likeness of Christ, let us proactively ingest His words and His teachings, lest we be filled instead with the seductive whispers of the world. May we allow His words, and those who are filled with His words, to shape us rather than the deceitful words of our sexualized culture.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
— Colossians 3:16
To see the full article in print (and many more thought-provoking articles like it!), get your copy of A World Free, our lifestyle magazine here.