Recently, in preparation for our ‘Rock Solid’ lunch-time and after school clubs, we performed an experiment on a jelly baby. Next time you buy a packet, try this out: take one of the sweets and plop it into a bottle of water. Leave it there for about a week. Slowly, the jelly baby absorbs the water until it becomes a grotesque bloated baby blob bobbing around in the bottom of the bottle (try reading that out loud). The point of all this? To get the message across to the young people we work with that it’s easy to soak up influences from our surroundings.
How often does a discussion about television, video games or the internet bring out a statement along the lines of, “it’s a bad influence on the children”? We are rightly concerned about the effect mass media has on impressionable young minds. As a child, I was a regular reader of The Beano comic. While I do accept responsibility for my actions, I’m sure it was reading the antics of Dennis the Menace that led me to put a drawing pin on Tom Poole’s chair during a maths lesson.
It may be true that young people are particularly vulnerable to the messages that creep out of our screens, but are we all keeping track of what’s influencing us? Saint Paul instructed the early Christians in Rome “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV). He believed that the attitudes of Christians should be totally different from the attitudes of the culture that surrounds them. That’s only possible if we allow God’s Spirit to influence us more than anything else.