It’s so easy to point a finger at someone and judge them, wouldn’t you agree? It’s the one times in our life that we feel like we have power over someone else. We feel superior and holier and certainly more righteous than the one on the receiving end. Especially if your fingernails look like a hag’s.
What we fail to notice is the fact that we have three fingers pointing right back at us. We pay them no mind because they’re our fingers, they’re on our side…right? There’s something to say about this. It’s a constant reminder to always check ourselves before we point out something in someone else’s life. Jesus himself said to, “take the log out of your eye first before pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye”.
Recently, I picked up a certain controversial game that has been in the news for the past several weeks that goes by the name Grand Theft Auto V. Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of pointed fingers, with disgusted looks pointed at me as well. How dare a student in seminary play this game! Why would he do such a thing?!
Well, as controversial as this next statement is going to be, it’s simply because: I have fun playing the game. Now, before anyone starts jumping to conclusions, allow me a moment to defend myself a little.
First, I probably do not play the game like everyone else in America does. I avoid the infamous sexual themes in the game like the plague, only take cars I buy from the shops (or abandoned ones on the side of the road) unless I absolutely need to take a car, I only fight when I absolutely have to and in my spare time, I explore the game world because it is a ridiculously big game map.
Second, despite the bad press the game gets, although it is warranted to a degree, the game tells a story. Not some misogynist, lack of humanity story but one that shows a father struggling to love his family, despite the times they annoy him. A story of a gangster trying desperately to hold onto what little bit of humanity he has left and get out of the crime world. The story of a psychopath who, well, I have no idea why he’s in the game. The stories in these games are so compelling and force me to ask myself, “What would I do in this situation? When the chips are down, what would I do”.
Third, I appreciate the leaps in technology this game does. There are so many little tweaks and design ideas in this game that completely floor me that a game as minutely-detailed as GTA V runs on current-gen video game consoles. The fact that flip-flops actually move like they do in real-life made me giddy just because I appreciate the level of detail the developers went to in making this game.
Now, I will admit that there are plenty of other games out that I could play that tell fantastic and compelling stories, let me play the hero and have a large world to explore. I will also admit that there are plenty of games available to me that do not contain any kind of infamous sexual themes or incredibly ridiculous amounts of cussing. I will certainly admit that there are plenty of games available that are not anywhere near as violent as what GTA can be.
But if I may propose a question, another perspective, I must ask why do I get disgusted looks and sharp, dagger-like fingers aimed at me for playing a game like GTA yet do not get a passing glance when I talk about watching Breaking Bad? Or playing Call of Duty? Or read a Batman comic? Stay with me here.
What has been so frustrating about the past few weeks is that I have noticed a double-standard. You cannot condemn one thing and allow something else that is within similar bounds. A constant thought I had while playing GTA V is that this game reminds me so much of Breaking Bad. Perhaps that is because that is the most relevant but it could also be because the characters act similar to the characters in Breaking Bad.
And I know for a fact that I am not the only Christian who enjoys watching Breaking Bad.
I have no quarrel with a Christian brother coming to me and discussing why I play this game, the spiritual aspects of the game, if any, and what I can take away from it and come to a conclusion of whether or not I should play a game like GTA. I believe that approach is Biblical and leads to some great discussion and discipleship and true fellowship. However, to just point a finger and look down on me, is anti-biblical and pushes people away from the church more than it does draw them in, especially if it is done with full knowledge that the person casting the stone watches material with similar content. Again, going back to what Jesus says about the log in someone’s eye.
I will be the first to admit that there’s some garbage in GTA, along with a sleu of other TV shows, movies and video games, that honestly do not need to be there. I have an extreme amount of difficulty recommending that game to anyone because of the content for the very same reasons I have difficulty recommending Breaking Bad to my wife because of the content within. As of late, I’ve contemplated if I should even finish the series.
But if we are going to discuss these things with our friends, we cannot do so with a double-standard. If you’re a Christian, or not, does not matter, you cannot call a friend a fiend when your hands are red with a similar transgression; that is the definition of a hypocrite.
Retreating back to the beginning, would I recommend this game to people? Probably not. Do I enjoy what little positives aspects are there? Yes. Do I think the majority of people playing the game shouldn’t be playing it? Probably not the majority but a good percentage really should not be playing the game.
But brothers, whether you are Christian or not, you cannot hold to a double-standard. Take the log out of your eye first, see clearly and then if a speck is in someone’s eye, let them know, peacefully, lovingly and respectfully.
Footnote: If you would like to hear more of my thoughts on GTA, M-Rated games and culture in general, check out the recent episode of my podcast, 8Bit Heroes on iTunes.