Sufficient time has lapsed to allow for a brief reflection on Pokémon GO.
Immediately as the craze began, there were Christians demonising the game – i.e. linking satanic connection to it. I have seen this phenomenon before: When Teletubbies, Power Rangers, Harry Potter, and yes, even The Lord of the Rings (and others I may not be aware of) appeared on the scene, similar alarms were raised. Santa Claus suffers from a similar annual scrutiny.
With the thousands who have downloaded the app here, if Pokémon GO had been of the devil, those of us in the deliverance ministry would have our hands full 24/7.
We are deceiving ourselves if we think that by simply demonising something we are going to stop people from pursuing it. Human curiosity and rebelliousness being such, it might just produce the opposite effect. Besides, by doing so we make the devil out to be so powerful, forgetting who we are in Christ. The devil is really beneath our feet, and not above us. The only way our enemy can get hold of us is when he deceives us into believing that the reverse is true.
That said, it would be foolish to deny that an apparently innocent game app can become a demonic instrument. The advice from Scripture is clear: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV) Sometimes he roars, as Peter warns here, but he can also “[disguise] himself as an angel of light”. (2 Cor 11:4, ESV) Satan can be an “in-yourface” or deceptive and subtle evil, or both at the same time.
Anything good can be turned into evil, not only by the devil, but also by human folly, as highlighted by the many (non-spiritual) warnings already issued against the game. These same warnings apply to many other (non-gaming) aspects of life as well, not just Pokémon GO. But it would be a sad reflection of the spiritual state of the church if we could not let our members enjoy themselves, and believed them to be incapable of making distinctions between good fun and evil.
As with anything spiritual, the responsibility ultimately lies with the individual. The community teaches and warns of dangers, and is always at hand to minister should anyone make an error of judgment and fall into the deception of evil. Early nay-sayers often start with the devil as their reference point, instead of looking to God in Scripture to find out what He has to say first. When we start with evil, then all things related to magic, sorcery, wizardry, or the supernatural take on a dark complexion.
But when we turn our eyes to Jesus first, we look for what is good: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Whoever designed the Pokémon GO app is a genius. Malls and restaurants which have the lures benefit from the app compared to the retail gloom some face. Any success of this sort spawns and spurs other businesses and provides jobs as well. We can learn a lot about reaching the masses from the people who market the app.
We spend our time more productively when we build up our members in the faith and in their relationship with the Lord Jesus, grounded on His Word, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, rather than to be sidetracked into playing a game (and here I am not referring to anything Pokémon-GO-like) with the devil.
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup –
was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for more than 30 years.