The arrival of October is something to which I look forward all year. I immensely enjoy fall. Its fiery-colored foliage, against a backdrop of azure sky, and the crispness of autumn evenings (although one couldn’t tell it yet by our warm weather lately), are all treasured testimonies to our Creator that fuel a renewed spirit of praise and thanksgiving within me.
There is little that I dislike about it. In fact, one complaint only would I register today, but it has nothing to do with weather or even of raking of leaves (not that I especially enjoy raking leaves). Rather it has to do with the tradition of celebrating evil, darkness, and death.
I am astonished every October to see the extent of our fascination with such things (in the name of fun) as I drive or walk by front yards turned graveyards, or pretend corpses hanging by gibbets beside children’s playground equipment. The fact that it is the same every fall not only fails to cause me to become accustomed to it but only magnifies my astonishment!
I am most horrified of all over the horrible images passing in front of the average person’s eyes on television and movie screens (not to mention the incredible volume of DVD movie posters in area department stores depicting at every child’s eye level images of the macabre). As far as the movies themselves go, I am not sure which is more unbelievable: the fact that movie makers can imagine in pain-staking (no pun intended) detail such cruel acts or that the movie market is madly driven by people who pay money to see them. The special effects in such movies and even regular television programming have such a capacity for realism that people watching them are essentially seeing the “real thing.”
There is no doubt that a repeated and casual approach towards such things instills in the human psyche a tolerance that easily becomes callousness to the suffering of others. Nor can it be successfully argued by a Christian that the treatment of evil as being trivial does not produce in us a spiritual malaise. And having said that, I am quite convinced that parents grossly underestimate the dangers to their children of such whimsical attitudes towards spiritual darkness.
The Bible says, “As (a man) thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7a NAS). Our thoughts dictate our character and our character is what we really are on the inside. So if we fill up our minds with cruelty and the torture of others, we are at the very least desensitizing ourselves to other people’s problems, hurts, and losses. In fact, we are likely minimizing (if not totally eradicating) the potential within ourselves for empathy and compassion.
And if we flirt with the “thrill of fear”, what we are doing in reality is immersing ourselves in attitudes of fear that send their roots into our minds, contaminating our walks with God. Why would we want to do that when we have, in fact, been called by God to “not be afraid”? “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15 NIV).
The Bible teaches us to neither cultivate attitudes of hard-heartedness to others nor those that nudge us back towards the spiritual oppression of fearfulness. It directs us instead to fill our minds with the things of God. In contrast to fear, we should be concentrating on our victory in Christ. Instead of amusing ourselves with mutilations and maimings, we should be seeking opportunities to heal and help others. Instead of imagining the deplorable depths to which evil can drag one, we should focus on the wonderful heights to which the love of God can lift us.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:4-8 NIV).
Take care not only this October season to guard your heart and mind. Steer clear of things that will orient your thinking along paths that are contrary to the peace and love of God and your call to be an agent of help for the suffering of others. And be especially mindful of your children and your responsibility to encourage them towards those spiritually positive attitudes described in Philippians chapter four. Thinking about such things will help to produce such fruits in their lives and in their relationships, too.