You had to know that is was only a matter of time before we talked about this one. This article will be a little more serious in tone than I typically post, so please bear with me because this is a very important topic and I am going to intentionally avoid humor to insure there are no blurred lines here. There is a REAL video game coming out on Steam titled “I am Jesus Christ”, and it has already generated a large amount of conversation as well as some controversy. I have not had an opportunity to observe any of this game beyond what has already been released publicly, so my current stance is one of cautious optimism mixed with curiosity on multiple fronts. Reception has been mixed to say the least, with the media concerned with the overall lack of quality in all previous “faith-based” games (which is fair criticism), and Christians concerned that the “gamification” of the Son of God is simply a step too far.
As a gamer, my questions are focused on gameplay mechanics and how this title will handle the complexities of creating a truly engaging game with a story that is by definition locked into a very linear and specific path. Is this merely a “Greatest Hits” version of Jesus’s life and ministry, or will actual choices be present that may diverge from the actual path of Christ? How much artistic license can even be taken in this game without turning off your core audience and risking, you know, blasphemy? And possibly the most important question for a gamer, will the game be fun to play?
Now as a Christian, I have an entirely different level of interest in this game. I can’t speak for the game developer’s motivations in creating this title, but in interviews they seem genuine in their interest to bring the story of Jesus to life through the art form of gaming. If this title makes even ONE person decide to pick up a Bible and learn more about the “Greatest Story Ever Told”, then it has accomplished something of eternal significance. Regardless of the intentions of this game, one thing is for certain… like every work of art or entertainment that has ever been created, it is going to face critics from every direction. And with the subject matter of this game, the stakes are understandably high and the emotions will run even higher.
As a society we have unfortunately fallen into the worst type of censorship, the self-inflicted kind. This “Cancel Culture” epidemic has expanded to touch every aspect of our lives. If we disagree with the belief system or even a single simple statement of one individual connected to a product, we immediately boycott the product, the network that airs its commercials, and anyone who has ever stood next to that person in a picture. Old mistakes are dug up, previous alliances questioned, and in the end we decide that this person and their entire body of work must be removed from the planet. There seems to be no limit to the grasp of the “Cancel Culture” monster… it is willing to sacrifice absolutely anyone that has ever said something stupid or engaged in something that has now become retroactively controversial.
As believers this becomes even more dangerous, as we are called to be the peacemakers on earth in a society that refuses to be appeased. This “Cancel Culture” philosophy is everywhere we look… where we live, where we work, and even where we worship. We feel it in the grocery store, see it on the television, hear it on the radio, deal with it at work or school… it is positively oppressive. And unfortunately we often get swept into the exact same “mob mentality” tidal wave, almost as if we are pushing back with equal force against the aggressive tactics of the other side. This “fighting fire with fire” concept simply does not belong in Christian behavior, and I will show you a few good Biblical reasons as to why we must be content to “turn the other cheek”, even when our opposition refuses to take the high road.
In 1 Samuel we find the beginning of the the story of David, the young man who would become the most famous king in the history of Israel. He was chosen and anointed at an early age to be next in line for the throne, but his path didn’t lead to it as directly as he probably had hoped. I highly encourage you to read his entire journey, but in the interest of time we will fast-forward to a point in time where David is currently living a life on the run from Saul, the CURRENT reigning king of Israel. Saul understandably took umbrage to the idea that someone other than his own son would become the next king, and he took his frustration out on David. David had done nothing wrong other than being a loyal soldier for Saul, but he was still perceived as “Israel’s Most Wanted” because of the calling God had placed on his life.
Saul chased David for years with the plan to kill him once he got his hands on him, and through the grace of God David managed to stay one step ahead of him all along the way. But on two separate occasions, God placed Saul in a defenseless position where David could choose to kill Saul with ease and end his life of living on the run, finally claiming his rightful position on the throne. One of those is recorded in 1 Sam 24, and the other is here…
1 Samuel 26:7-11 So David and Abishai came to the people by night; and there Saul lay sleeping within the camp, with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. And Abner and the people lay all around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now therefore, please, let me strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth; and I will not have to strike him a second time!” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” David said furthermore, “As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.
David had his enemy dead to rights, but CHOSE not to do any harm to him. This is a huge part of why David was called “A man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13). David COULD have ended Saul right there, taken the throne he had been promised, and ended his years of living in caves. God gave him an opportunity to make that choice. But David showed his understanding of the true nature of God, refusing to bring violence to the table as an answer against injustice. David had every reason to put an end to his suffering caused by this evil man, but instead he recognized that GOD was the judge, jury and executioner, not him (Romans 2). He knew that a throne seized in blood would have to be maintained with blood, and it would be a hollow victory that would never result in lasting peace. By staying his hand and allowing Saul’s life and reign as king to end on God’s terms, David was able to receive the crown in peace rather than by force.
It is tempting for all of us to push back with equal force against those who shout us down, boycott us, marginalize us, and mistreat us. And I am absolutely not advocating for us to simply stand idly by while we are abused and attacked. But we do not win by lowering ourselves to the standards and tactics of our abusers. David recognized that it was the Lord who was his defender and avenger (Romans 12:19), and the wheels of destiny the Lord had placed in motion would not be stopped by Saul or any of his evil machinations. As David had predicted, Saul eventually fell in battle and David was chosen as king by the people… a people who respected him for refusing to lower himself to the same standards of the ungodly. He became the most beloved king in the history of Israel, and the Star of David remains as a symbol on the Israeli flag to this very day.
In this world of “Cancel Culture” policies afflicting everything from politics, entertainment, clothing, food, and every other part of our lives, we have an important choice to make. The choice to refuse to engage at the same level as our opposition. The choice to allow even those that we disagree with to have a voice, and the right to be wrong. It doesn’t mean we have to stay and listen, but we also do not need to silence them simply to prove our point. Games like “I am Jesus Christ” need to have an opportunity to exist… even if we are concerned at how it may represent our Lord. If it is a terrible game, it will fail based on its own merits. If it does not faithfully adhere to the Biblical record, it will collapse of its own accord. But allowing even those things that we do not agree with to exist is not merely American… it is BIBLICAL.
We can disagree, and we can even have honest conversations and meaningful, respectful debate to influence others… but the moment we begin censoring those we disagree with we are no different or better than those who once silenced us. I am reminded of the incredible wisdom brought to us from Gamaliel in Acts 5, a Pharisee who was consulted when the apostles of Jesus had been arrested for preaching “blasphemy”. When confronted with the challenge of dealing with the Christians during the early church he had this to say…
Acts 5:34-39 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
Our war is not against PEOPLE, it is against satan, the enemy of our souls (Eph. 6:12). And I want to say this as emphatically as I can… the people of this world, even those we disagree with and those who persecute us, they are NOT our enemies. They are our MISSION FIELD. We will NOT win them through fighting back in equal ferocity to their attacks, but through our peaceful spirit and loving disposition. It is not weakness to show those who persecute us mercy and love when they do not deserve it… it is allowing the strength of Christ to show them His power through a demonstration of patience and respect that was not earned. We cannot engage the “Cancel Culture” by meeting them on their terms… we only win when we choose not to engage in that fight. We are not fighting a war to change minds… we are fighting a war to save souls.
If the game is good and does not offend you as a believer or as a gamer, then play it. If the sandwich is delicious, eat it. If the shirt makes you feel like you are built like Thor, then by all means rock that shirt. And let us all regard the words of the Apostle Paul as a guide for whatever we say, eat, drink, or do…
1 Cor. 10:31-33 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
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