By now, most of us know about the Pokémon GO craze. My son downloaded the app on my cell phone the week it came out and while I don’t play much, I understand enough of the game to capture Pokémon and cash in on the rewards dished out at PokéStops (for the uninitiated, Pokémon are monsters of various species that appear on the game display based on where players are physically located and PokéStops are places where players can collect needed items—thus, people play this game on the move). So, the other day while on a prayer walk in a local park, I had my Bible app open to Colossians 3 and my son’s Pokémon GO app open as well. It turns out that parks are fruitful places for capturing Pokémon.
So, there I am, walking around this park wrestling with Paul’s statement “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col 3:15) while trying to capture a Geodude (one species of Pokémon) by throwing Poké balls at it. What I found interesting about this admittedly startling (and perhaps troubling) juxtaposition was that my experience of the emergence of a new insight or application within the biblical passage as I walked through the park was very similar to my experience of the appearance of a new Pokémon in my vicinity. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a similar area of my brain lit up when appreciating a deeper understanding of Colossians as when appreciating a new addition to my (son’s!) collection of Pokémon monsters. There was a similar kind of excitement, joy, and sense of connection to something outside of myself when I captured a previously underappreciated point from Colossians 3 as when I captured a high value Golbat or Rhydon. Of course, the excitement, joy, and sense of connection in the first case is of a radically different type than the second, but that there is some sort of comparable felt-experience of excitement, joy, and sense of connection is what I found intriguing.
Now, what to make of this intriguing similarity? I am not attempting to make the point that Niantic (the maker of Pokémon GO) has in some manner ripped off the Christian narrative or that playing the game is a form of idolatry that should be avoided. Rather, I think the similarity I experienced is due to the fact that human persons were made for devotion to Jesus: to follow after Jesus as the risen Lord and to be met by his Spirit through Scripture, through others, through circumstances, and the various other conduits of his grace. These people walking around the park pursuing Pokémon were actually made to expend that same sort of time, energy, and focus on pursuing Jesus. And, of course, I was one of those persons. At best, half my time, focus, and energy was on Jesus and the other half was on capturing Pokémon.
The phrase that I spent the most time on that day was “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). It’s interesting that Paul says it’s the peace of Christ—it’s his peace, the kind of peace he had while incarnate on earth and the kind of peace he continues to have seated at the right hand of his Father. It’s a peace rooted in a deep trust in his Father’s loving reign. That is the sort of peace—the peace of Christ—that Paul says the Colossians are to allow to govern their own inner lives. I found myself thinking of the many other things that I have let rule my heart; things that often bring frustration, anxiety, emptiness, and very little peace. I am truly distracted by so many things other than deep trust in the Father’s loving reign and the peace of Christ that emerges from that. It is so much easier to capture a Geodude than to actively allow the peace of Christ to rule.
Perhaps Pokémon GO isn’t your thing. If not, then what are the finite things in your life that take time, energy, and focus that could be going to your devotion to Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 7:35)? Could it be the news, a hobby, Facebook, working out, gardening, the next meal, the next episode, a new item of clothing, your work? If you are not walking around looking to capture a Geodude, what are you seeking to fill your time with? Chances are you don’t need to give up those pursuits totally, but to what degree is your pursuit of these things in competition with your active pursuit of Jesus and the peace that can be found in him?
Or, maybe Pokémon GO is your thing, or at least one of them. Again, there is probably no need to snuff out your app and I wouldn’t recommend melding Pokémon hunting with biblical meditation as I did. But as we look to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” the allure and ease of Pokémon hunting might be telling us something of our true—but far more difficult to address—need to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.