The flesh is always itching, and no amount of Gold Bond will help. There are numerous ways humans seek to scratch the itch, and the fight I want to pick is not primarily with the backscratcher or the ointment, it is with the itch itself. The flesh’s itch is the itch for gratification. Although God made us to be satisfied, delighted, even overjoyed, we decided that we want to be satisfied by anything other than Him. We don’t mind using aspects of Who He is to gratify us; but we don’t want just Him, only Him, nothing but Him. Human nature is such that it is always seeking ways to be satisfied, soothed, petted, and coddled. We itch for appeasement, pleasure, and self-satisfaction. The itch should simply be called “selfishness.”
The flesh mistakes the means for the end. After all, God made us with a desire and longing for joy and pleasure and satisfaction; He didn’t make this world one of bland, parched deserts of drab grey silence. Our problem is that we mistake the taste of the fruit for the fruit itself; an apple is not merely its taste. An apple is the whole composite of its attributes: it is the skin, the meat, the juice, the stem, the seeds, the tang, and the flavor. It is all of these rolled into one scrumptious treat. We would count someone a tad soft in the head if they insisted that they liked the flavor of apples but didn’t like to actually eat the apple itself. Our itch for gratification and pleasure is much the same way; we like the pleasure, we just don’t want the true Source of pleasure.
If I might be permitted to take the example further, this world is merely a small hint of the flavor of God. God is not baked down to just a mere segment of His nature; all that He is, He is all the time. It is time for us to leave off with trying to take the pleasures that God has woven into creation without tasting and delighting in the Creator and Source of those pleasures, and indeed, is Pleasure Himself.
While we were designed for satisfaction, the flesh is a clever deceiver. When we scratch the itch of the flesh, it is like a leprous man scraping his sores with a potsherd. It momentarily relieves the pain, but the man is still a leper, and the man is still going to die. The problem is, he may think himself superior to other lepers simply because he uses a potsherd that has Bible verses on it. However, so long as he merely scratches the itch, no matter what he is scratching it with, he is still not dealing with the inward disease that is crippling and killing him.
In recent years we have seen a rise in the Christian world of all varieties of media and entertainment. This in and of itself is neither concerning, wrong, nor unusual (actually, throughout Christian history the church has been a major contributor to the world of art and music). What is concerning is what much of the Christian music, book, and movie industries are being used for! It all too often becomes the potsherd with Bible verses on it.
As I have watched the Christian “entertainment” grow over the years, I have watched the ebb and flow, the give and take. There are some Christian movies out there that, bless their heart, have a great message and terrible acting. However, there are now big budget Christian films being produced, with big named actors, and cool special effects, and while the message isn’t terrible, it is far short of earth shattering; it isn’t Samson ripping off Gaza’s gates. Oh, and Christian music has produced some real gems of musical genius, but at the same time, it seems to look sideways (as this article well describes http://bit.ly/1dw3AeM ) to see what the world is doing and then replicating a Christian version of it. For every Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Biebs, One Direction, and U2 there is a Christian alternative.
So, here is the biting question that needs asking: why does the Christian world feel the need to have an alternative? Is it because we all have the same itch, and we know we shouldn’t be using potsherds to scrape our boils, but the dying world around us have some pretty nifty potsherds! Oh, I have an idea, let’s make a potsherd with Jesus engraved on it, or a cutesy Christian catchphrase, or some other inoculating Bible-esiology. If the world has a potsherd with a skimpy outfit, then maybe we should have a potsherd that has a slightly less skimpy outfit. If the world makes a movie with stunning graphics, intense action, seductive romances, then perhaps we should try to make a movie with somewhat less stunning graphics, more restrained action, and only slightly less seductive romances. If the world writes novels about vampires, then by golly, let’s do the same, only different . . . sort of.
I fear that the church is scratching an itch with a potsherd, when Gilead has a balm to soothe our disease of soul. The leprosy of the world seems to be very welcome in the Christian music, book, and movie industry. Why? Well, because we as humans love to scrape. When the balm of Christ is offered, we reject it, because we would prefer to go on scraping, even after the itch is gone.
I had a friend recently tell me that the church in India has a similar problem to us. The hindus, in their spiritual ache and search, don’t mind bowing before a cross. However, the cross is just one of the many alters before which they bow. Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma are enjoyed, adored and worshiped alongside of Jesus. The Christians in India must be on guard against bringing idols into the temple. The same can be said of our more Western forms of idolatry. The Lord our God is One, and we must worship and serve Him only. In glorifying Him, we find that the selfish itch is soothed not by making self the center, but rather by dying to self and tasting and seeing the joy, pleasure and delight that is found in finding Christ alone all satisfying.
I am not opposed to Christian music, novels, or movies. In fact, I’m a staunch supporter of such enterprises. My desire is that the church would make such things in an overwhelmingly Gospel and Christ saturated way, that it blows that selfish itch to oblivion. Ravenhill had it right, “The devil’s substitute for joy is entertainment. [. . .] Where there is no joy, you have to fill it up with entertainment. The more joy you have in God, the less entertainment you need.”