How can I enjoy my hobbies, games, and movies without being "of the world"?

"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." —John 17:14-16

John 17:14-16 is one of the passages where the phrase "be in the world, but not of it" comes from. (Also see: John 15:19; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:1) Christians often believe that to be Christlike is to be as far removed from our culture as possible. But "worldliness" refers to loving sin and being overly focused on the things of Earth instead of on eternal things (Matthew 6:19). It does not mean that all things in the world are bad.

Being in the World

While it's true that we shouldn't LIVE for the things of this world, there is nothing wrong with having hobbies or non-spiritual interests or enjoying the beauty, creativity, and wonders our planet has to offer. Jesus enjoyed Himself when He was on Earth. Yes, He ministered to the poor and brokenhearted, but remember His first miracle? He made delicious wine for a wedding party (John 2:1-12). He laughed and spent time with the "most worldly" of people: prostitutes, tax collectors (who stole and lied), and more.

God made the world, and He deemed it good (Genesis 1:31). Yes, the world has become corrupted by sin (Genesis 3), but all things were originally created as good. Sin has twisted God's creation.

The fact that humans create music, movies, books, and other forms of art are all reflections of mankind being created in the image of a Creator (Genesis 1:26). So creating art, stories, or inventions are inherently good things because the act of creating reflects our Creator. Sin CAN corrupt those creations into dark, ugly, evil things. And yet, that doesn't mean all art is evil. Similarly, sex was created by God as a precious act between a husband and wife, but our world has perverted its original, sacred purpose in so many ways. And yet, that doesn't mean all sex is evil.

Engaging with the World

Hobbies and activities, like gaming or going to the movies, are ways we can engage with the world around us and learn more about other people's perspectives, how the world works, and what part we can play in the universe. In practicing godly engagement with the world, we can learn to love others better and glorify God through our words and actions.

It's okay to be passionate about something. Personally? I'm passionate about film. I have friends who are passionate about art, about cooking, about sword fighting... These are all unique things God has given each of us to enjoy and grow in to bring Him glory.

How can I know if I'm being "of the world"?

Anytime we have these kinds of questions, it's good to do an honest self-evaluation. That honesty part is really important too. We love to make excuses to get away with things, but that's not how spiritual maturity happens. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you examine your heart:

  • Am I prioritizing my hobbies over God, or am I inviting God into my hobbies with me?
  • Am I trying to hide my interests from God or others, or are my interests something I can share in good conscience?
  • Is this movie edifying for me, or does it compromise my faith, values, or morals?
  • Am I prioritizing my responsibilities, or am I quick to skip out on important responsibilities in favor of my hobbies/interests?

God wants to hang out with you in the midst of the things you enjoy—not to shame you but to be WITH you (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). He loves you so much, and the things you're excited about are likely because God placed those interests and passions in your heart (Psalm 139:13-14).

If you're unsure if something is good for you or not, ask God (James 1:5). Ephesians 6:18 says to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Nothing is too small to bring before God. Keep Him in the loop while you sort through feelings of false guilt and learn to engage the world through your hobbies and interests in a godly way.



Writer/Editor: September Grace

September is an avid film nerd from growing up on weekend trips to Universal Studios Hollywood. She is passionate about the intersections of Christian spirituality, faith, and storytelling in popular culture. Outside of 412teens and digging up obscure horror flicks from the 2000s, she works as a freelance developmental editor and acquisitions consultant while comforting her clingy feline floof, Faust, from the anxiety of existence.

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