Friday, December 17, 2010
Pushing the Restart Button
Repentance is not a restart -- it is not a do-over in which we go back to square one, act as if we did not make a mistake, and get a second chance to get it right. Repentance does not gloss over or ignore the consequences of our actions but enables us to face them head on. Repentance is the way we confront our failure -- not a way around it. It is only by owning the sin that the sinner can be pointed to grace. Naturally, this is the work of the Spirit and not our own good character and I do not wish to give the impression that repentance is our work -- it is always the fruit of the Spirit at work in the Word and Sacraments.
I fear a world in which repentance is equated with a do-over or restart. It will lead us even further away from the blessed fruit of repentance in which we have no place to go but the arms of our Savior, whose grace is the only power that can disarm the failed thoughts, words, and deeds of our sins. The do-over mentality leads to the false and damaging idea that we keep getting second chances to get it right until we win. In contrast to this, genuine repentance is the Spirit working in us to know and accept that we can never get it right. The entrance into God's kingdom comes not with ringing bells and victory images of a win but the warning sounds of "game over" and the admission that only Christ won. The miracle of grace leads us to see that He won not for Him but for us, and not for a second chance but for eternal redemption.
In addition, other lessons of the video games have taught us to cheer for the one who lives life on the edge, who cuts corners, who knows the cheat codes, and who bend the rules. Now, to be fair, this is also the lesson we learn from media figures who screw up so you cannot lay all the fault at the video console. But the images we get from the games and the media coverage of fallen celebs is the same. Nobody plays by the rules. If you can't win by doing what is honorable, then you can win by bending the rules or cheating a little here and there. Everybody gets a do-over. The most fun is living on the edge -- the edge of safety, the edge of morality, and the edge of getting caught.
As I have repeatedly stated, I am not a Luddite. I am not suggesting that we cash out of our techno age. But I think we need to be aware of some of the unintended consequences of the world in which our children are growing up and in which most young adults live. Without a deliberate and equally weighted counter balance to the world of do-overs and cutting the corners, youth and the young have a distorted view of reality which makes faith less important and masks the real and harmful risks to them, to their lives, to their real happiness, and to their eternity... Something every parent who is purchasing a video game this Christmas might well want to ponder...