Yesterday I finished reading the biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar. God used this man’s life to slap me upside the head with conviction and then hug me with encouragement. Much of the biography is journal entries from M’Cheyne himself, so I’ve got quite a list of quotations that I plan on returning to when I need to be wakened out of one of my spiritual stupors.
One quotation the biographer highlighted revealed M’Cheyne’s feelings about reading what is considered by the world to be classic literature. Speaking of the classics he says, “True, we ought to know them; but only as chemists handle poisons- to discover their qualities, not to infect their blood with them” (p. 37). This quote is highly instructive for us today as it was for M’Cheyne ‘s contemporaries 175 years ago. There is much pressure from certain parts of evangelical Christianity to contextualize with the world that we are trying to reach with the Gospel. Therefore, we are influenced to read what they read, watch what they watch, go where they go, and speak the way they speak in order for the Gospel to be unhindered by our Christian preferences. Now, I don’t disagree that we should contextualize, but I do believe that we must be ever so cautious in accessing the things the world treasures. While there will always be things the world loves that we should stay away from completely, we can find ourselves dabbling in seemingly harmless forms of entertainment and recreation that begin to “infect [our] blood” as M’Cheyne says. There is a difference between knowing the things the world loves and loving the things the world loves. If we are not careful about how we handle these things, then they can very easily draw us away from Jesus. That doesn’t mean we trash our computers, iphones, and flatscreens, but it does mean that we must be watchfully intentional as we use them. Jesus did pray to His Father “I do not ask that you take them (the disciples) out of the world” (John 17:15), but James says that true religion is “to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27). There should be a certain trepidation in us as we access the things of the world, knowing that there have been men like Demas who Paul says deserted him because he was “in love with this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). Poison isn’t something we guzzle like the sweetness that is Dr. Pepper; it’s something we handle using instruments, protective gloves and lab aprons. Be warned.