by The Rev. George F. Borghardt III
In the Name of Jesus. Amen. I love games. I began playing the first Massive Multiplayer Roleplay game (MMROPG) Ultima Online, while in seminary. The game provided a virtual world, economy, monsters, spells, and orcs! After that I tried my hand at Everquest and “Evercrack 2”. What can I say? I just love games with orcs in them.
Now, virtual worlds are everywhere. From the SIMs to World of Warcraft (WOW). That WOW game has the added benefit of playing against both orcs and trolls! You just can't go wrong there!
Games are just games, right? Player vs. player is plain old healthy competition. There's nothing more fun than ruining someone's day by player-killing (PK-ing) them. Nothing fixes a bad church-meeting day than a good PK (no, not the Pastor’s Kid, the other kind of PK)! One on one. Two on one. The one left standing to get on his horse and ride away is the winner.
That's what makes these games fun! It's an escape from reality. No homework, no projects, no people complaining at us. Just cool characters – millions of them – from all over the world, and each one with a unique personality, likes and dislikes.
You have to be careful, though. You don't know what kind of person is behind that other toon. What they think, what they really want. You don't know what their motives are behind that digital avatar of theirs. What if it's contrary to yours? What if ... they mean to do you harm? They probably don't, but what if they do?
Then, there is the fact that in virtual reality we are more willing to do things that we wouldn't normally do in real life. The mask protects our identity. We are more open, and maybe even too open. Have you ever said things in game that you would never say in church? And why shouldn’t we? Who's going to know it’s Pr. Borghardt behind my little gnome-warlock mask? Maybe it's not me, but my son playing! But it's just a game. It's not like it's real. Right?
Well, hold on. Games are one thing, but every now and again the games cross into reality. Be careful. You are free to play. You are free to roleplay. And as funny as it may sound, you are free in Christ even to “PK”. Yes, you are free in Christ to hunt down someone in game with your virtual bow and arrows!
But, if you aren't careful, you can find yourself in a place where the virtual world has an effect in the real world. Real sin can come from pretend flirting and digital violence. What do you do then?
What you need then is a real Savior for your virtual sins! One Who really lived the life that you should live – never stumbling, sinning, or going into areas where He shouldn't. One Whose life counts for your life and whose death settles your eternal debt to a very real God Who doesn't take virtual platinum or gold, but requires actual blood to pay for your sins.
Jesus' Blood really was shed for you. His Blood, was truly shed for all. The Cross is God's death-match with us. Jesus took all the Father’s wrath for our sins, all His hatred for what we wrong do and don't do right, and He flung it all it Son. That's the Cross. God got His hands on Jesus and did to Him what should happen to you. You could say that Jesus stepped in the way and got Pked in your place so that you would have the free pass for all eternity. For real. For the whole world.
For you too. But not for orcs. Orcs aren't real. But you are real, with real sins, real problems, real blunders, and real times you've acted in a game that you wouldn't act in real life. For you with your virtual sins – which aren't really virtual at all, are they? He died for them too.
You are real when you play games. You are real when you don't. You are forgiven in both – because real Jesus died for all your sins – both real and virtual ones.
So, when you play your game, play with the ferocity of an orc and have fun role-playing. But, remember, as you do, who you are really are. You are baptized. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Borghardt is Assistant/Youth Pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Conroe, TX. Pastor Borghardt is the Higher Things Conferences Executive and is the host of the Higher Things Radio Program.