We are suckers for entertainment. Good entertainment does lots of things for us. Perhaps the most simple is passing time. I confess, I just binge-watched Ted Lasso. That’s 22 shows at an average of 35 minutes each or 12.8 hours. Yes, I can hear your judgment. Before you go there, check out these stats on binge-watching. Apparently, you are doing it too (and yes that makes me feel better).
Ted Lasso is a great example of entertainment because that show does exactly what entertainment is supposed to do; hold our attention and give pleasure or delight to the customer (so says Google). But, at what point does entertainment lose its value? What would make you stop watching Ted Lasso? Let’s take a look at today’s reading and see what we find.
Read back through Acts 24:22-27 and pay attention to Felix. Now, Felix was the governor who had just heard the Jews’ case against Paul. Rather than offer a quick conviction, Felix delays. Not only would delaying the case allow him to defer responsibility, but it would also give him an opportunity to have some time alone with Paul. In some weird way, Felix was looking to Paul for entertainment.
Remember what Google said about entertainment. It is designed to produce pleasure or delight. This was true for Felix. In fact, he even invited his wife, Drusilla to come along. Unfortunately, this encounter quickly became less than entertaining. For most of us, this comes from boredom, but not Felix, not this time. Instead, Felix becomes alarmed while listening to Paul (v23).
In order to determine why Felix became alarmed, let’s examine the conversation. Paul spoke about faith in Jesus Christ and reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (v24-25). Somewhere, in this conversation, Felix became agitated. Let’s see if we can figure out why.
Imagine Felix listening intently as Paul talked. If he was anything like me, I can see him nodding in agreement when talking about Jesus and righteousness. “yes, this is who we are created to be,” Felix would agree. “Preach on brother.” Of course, when listening intently, he begins to contrast his own life with that of the righteous. With every new word, he sees the gap widen. The reality of that large gap begins to look insurmountable. Unless… “I changed,” he considers. “What would it take for me to be that righteous?”
This is where the entertainment ends. The list of changes becomes overwhelming. Felix would easily remember his faults, big and small. He may start with the little white lies, no big deal there. Then, he remembers the drunkenness and debauchery. Perhaps he moves on to the bribes and the affairs. But “don’t sweat it,” he thinks, “I’ve got this under control.” Maybe he does have it under control. At least it feels that way until Paul starts in on the coming judgment. Now, there is no way out. ALARM!
As I thought through that scenario, I was reminded of an excerpt from Knowing Christ Today, by Dallas Willard. He says “We can fail to know because we do not want to know—because what would be known would require us to believe and act in ways contrary to what we want. It often strikes first-time visitors to large cities, such as New York City, how the residents have taught themselves not to look at the problems surrounding them—for example, the homeless or victims of muggings. Looking makes you responsible. Avoidance is one reason for the lack of knowledge among humanity—knowledge can be and often is rejected.”
It’s that simple. Felix rejected – no, he ran from – the knowledge that Paul offered for the simple reason that knowing it would require him to act contrary to the way he wanted to act. Ouch!
We all have the same choice when the Holy Spirit calls. How are you responding?