Captivated or Taken Captive?

The expanse of the Grand Canyon. The vulnerability of a newborn baby. The rocky coast of Maine. Mary Poppins on Broadway. Sunset over the Bosporus.

Captivating. That’s how I would describe these things. Each one meeting the definition: Attracting and holding the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence; enchant.

What captivates you? What holds your attention by its beauty and excellence? What enthralls you with its powerful magnificence?

Captives of Worldly Philosophy

Sadly, we are prone to be entranced by lesser things. Rather than being captivated in the true sense of the word, we end up being taken captive instead. A prisoner to things unworthy that, because of indwelling sin, hold our attention in a negative way.

Paul urges the Colossian church, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2: 8) Though no one knows exactly what worldly philosophy captured the minds of the believers at Colossae, it was a heresy that competed with the pure Gospel of Christ.

If I were to suggest a harmful, worldly philosophy that even Christians are often taken captive by, it would be Humanism. Here’s a simple definition: a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. (Humanism may be hiding in trendier labels like “empowerment” and “self-care.”) In humanism, a person creates their own ethics prioritizing their own needs and values above religious ones.

Unbiblical Ideals

How might this philosophy creep into the life of the believer?  Here are a few statements I’m guilty of and have also heard repeated in Christian circles that, while they can be compatible with biblical teaching, can also be dangerously unbiblical and humanistic.

  • My priority is a healthy work-life balance.

The balance of work and Sabbath rest are explicitly commanded in Scripture, of course, and we often disobey this command by working too much. But we also err on the side of seeking after comfort and luxury in the name of rest. If the pursuit of a work-life balance neglects the call to mission and service in the local church, it has taken us prisoner by its philosophy of “my needs and values over God’s.” This is a humanistic idea.

  • I need to discover my true purpose.

Unfortunately, I often hear this from a young mother who has been taken captive by the notion that caring for young children is unsatisfying and lacks purpose. Granted, it is often an exhausting and thankless job done in obscurity, but also one that God upholds as noble and necessary. In fact, the training of children is within God’s plan for evangelism and discipleship. Nothing is more purposeful than making a disciple, but we often relegate child and home care to being necessary evils rather than high callings. Casting off less-than-glamorous careers and minimizing tasks the Bible elevates is another humanistic idea.

Captivated by Christ

Though it is a different church and context, Paul also instructs the church at Corinth regarding how to prevent becoming a prisoner to worldly philosophies that are “raised against the knowledge of God.” (2 Cor. 10: 5) He describes it as warfare and explains how he himself wages the battle with worldly philosophies:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ... (2 Corinthians 10: 3-6)

While Paul is addressing specific accusations against himself by some in the church, his teaching here is beneficial to us today as believers trying to navigate the strongholds and philosophical fortresses of the third millennium.

In essence, Paul is saying: Be captivated by Christ. Let the Gospel hold your attention with its beauty and excellence. Be enthralled by the cross and resurrection.

Only in being completely captivated by Christ can we resist being taken captive by ideas that oppose Him.

Melanie Krumrey is a pastor’s wife, serves as the women’s ministry leader at MERCYhouse church in Amherst, MA, and blogs at www.dwellabideadorn.com.