In recent months we have drifted away from the central purpose of this series--that of examining how our faith and our gaming hobby may be integrated--into responding to the criticisms of other Christians. This is in some ways a necessary part of what we are doing. If well-intentioned Christians think that our hobby is wrong, we need to examine what they say and what we do very closely. But to some degree, the critics have derailed us, pulling us away from the basics of our discussion. It's time to get back on track. To do this, we're going to travel back to the fundamentals, where we began.
--James 3:18, UNASB
Sometimes when we read metaphoric material we absorb it without really stopping to consider what it means. This time as I was reading through James I stopped, wondering what this meant; and as I began to jot down what I thought it meant, a second possible meaning sprang to mind.
First, I asked myself what was the seed whose fruit is righteousness, and the answer which came to my mind was the gospel of repentance to salvation--if we, as in the parable of the sower, sow the seed of the gospel, it may bring others to repentance and salvation leading to righteousness. And thus the rest of the verse fell in place in my mind: peacemakers (blessed because they shall be called sons of God), people who practice making peace with others, are able to bring the gospel to many who would not otherwise hear it.
I think that the many Christians who play role playing games and other hobby games, including those in the Christian Gamers Guild, sit in a special position relative to a very large number of lost souls. Millions of gamers believe that the God of the Christians hates them because of their hobby; more are convinced that we don't know the first thing about God if we think anything so foolish. I have received hate mail from some gamers because I am a Christian who writes about games, and as soon as they see that they assume that whatever I write must be condemnation of them. Christian gamers, by becoming involved in the lives of these people, by not merely saying God loves them and doesn't condemn their hobby but actually participating in it, being involved with these people in the things that they enjoy, put ourselves in a position to be seen as what we might distinguish as credible witnesses, people whose testimony is likely to be believed. One gamer who had only read the title of my game-defending article Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons™ Addict wrote, "I don't read Christian trash, I burn it." This certainty that so many have that we hate them with an unreasoning hatred based on an unfounded and ridiculous belief that they are somehow against us because of a game they enjoy--a certainty we Christians taught them--has cut them off from any chance that they might hear the gospel. And how can they believe in Whom they have not heard? When they are sent tracts and essays telling them what sinners they are for playing games, it only confirms their opinion that Christians are idiots. And once we have convinced them of this, they won't hear the Truth from us. But we Christians who by playing games alongside them show that not all of us are idiots restore for ourselves a level of credibility, a foundation from which we can then tell them what they need to hear.
Thus by making peace with the lost, we are able to sow the seed of the gospel in a manner which is more likely to lead to salvation and the fruit of righteousness in their lives. I had come to understand what James was saying--or so I thought.
But then it occurred to me that we are supposed to bring forth the fruit of righteousness in our own lives; and perhaps this verse didn't mean what I first thought but something different. Perhaps what it was saying is that those of us who make peace with our Christian brothers are through that peace sowing seeds in our own lives and theirs which will bring forth righteousness. If we show the right attitude toward each other, it will lead us to peaceful relationships with each other that encourage each to grow. In some ways this reading fits the context better. James has been telling us that we need to show love through wise gentleness. It sounds very like he's talking about our attitudes toward each other in the church, although he doesn't limit it that way. The next material focuses on strife within the church. Overall, the passage is about Christian treatment of Christians. Understanding it in this context, it tells us that by learning to make peace with each other as Christians we make it possible for each of us to grow in God and to become better examples of Christ.
But even that doesn't preclude the interpretation that those who make peace will be able to have a positive impact on those outside the faith. If we practice making peace with everyone, it will result in others being brought to the gospel. So which reading fits the context better? Is it possible James intended both? Are the two things closely enough related that one interpretation might cover them? I think maybe they are. The gospel of repentance leading to salvation isn't really something that we hear once, do, and forget. It is part of our continuing lives--we continuously change our thinking, renewing our minds and turning to God. If we learn to make peace, we peaceably sow those seeds in the lives of others and in our own lives, bringing forth righteousness from among those already on the path of life and those for whom it is a new beginning.
Does this have anything to do with gaming? In a sense, it does. It has to do with gaming because gaming is part of life, and, as we saw months ago, it is part of that aspect of life that involves sharing our time with other people and having an impact on them. I said we were going back to fundamentals, and that is where this verse has taken us. God has called us to peace, not to arguing and pontificating. It is by making peace with each other that we can begin the process of sharing our lives with each other, and so sharing that which God is doing in us so that it can begin to happen in them.
So begin the process. Seek peace, and pursue it with Christians and unbelievers alike. Show them that your concerns are with living for God and loving others. In doing this, you will open up opportunities to share more of yourself and the truth you've understood.
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