I started playing guitar my eighth grade year. I almost quit two weeks after my first lesson. Honestly, I wanted to play the guitar more than anything. My air guitar moves were getting better by the day, but I earnestly desired to add an actual instrument to my routine so that I could improve my audience from my bathroom mirror to some real people.
The reason I wanted to quit is because learning to play the guitar hurts. To make a decent, resonant sound on a guitar, you have to press the strings down very firmly. But after a couple of weeks of practicing, the slightest touch to those strings sent my fingers wailing in pain. My guitar teacher informed me that if I could just persevere through those hard moments, one day I would develop caloluses on my fingertips. Callouses are hardened parts on your skin that develop on your fingertips when frequent friction is applied. If I could develop callouses, I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore. I can remember a time when playing the guitar finally stopped hurting. One day, my practice wasn’t laborious anymore because I could no longer feel the pain. The friction was still there, but I had gotten desensitized to its painful reality.
In Ephesians, Paul warned those Christians that they not develop calloused hearts and therefore lead to ungodly living. He stated that the way that they lived first off started as a matter of the heart. Paul worried that these Christians could turn from Christ “due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4:18-20).
In the same way that callouses on my fingers removed the sting from guitar strings, callouses on our hearts can remove the sting associated when a Christian sins. The more I am around unhealthy influencers, the more callous my heart becomes. When once I could spot the vileness of sin a mile off, overtime I become desensitized to its destructive ploys. I start viewing certain sinful media presentations as funny or cute. I begin to accept certain unhealthy cultural phenomenon as natural. And before I know it, my heart is desensitized and my attempts at holiness wane in the process.
I have formulated a couple of tests to gauge to see when I have gotten calloused. You know you have become calloused when a friend asks you how a movie was and you have to reply, “it wasn’t that bad. It only had a few cuss words in it.” Busted. If you have to qualify a movie or music based upon the minimal amount of unedifying material, you have become calloused. What I have found is that normally there was actually more inappropriate stuff in there, I just have gotten so desensitized to it, I didn’t recognize it. When a movie only has a few inappropriate elements, most Christians rejoice that they don’t feel as guilty to enjoy that flick. In an attempt to find the lesser of the evils, we can easily put our stamp of approval on things that honestly are not Christ-honoring.
Another simple test: would you watch that movie, listen to that song, or post on that site if your pastor was in the room with you? If you would be weirded out by that thought, you have become calloused. I was talking with a couple of students once at our church who started to sing a particular song, and then all of a sudden, they started blushing and said they couldn’t finish the song. When I inquired why, they said they would feel awkward to utter the upcoming words around me.
I asked, “Are you uncomfortable to acknowledge that around one of your pastors or because its something you are embarrassed that you are listening to as a Christian?” I never really received a response. The point is that if you feel awkward being influenced by some media medium around a minister, then you probably shouldn’t be engaging in it anyway.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.