Abraham Kuyper once said that every single square inch of the creation lies under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. I think most Christians would affirm this idea but more and more, in seems, people in reality are starting to carve out small places where Christ does not reign. It may seem like an innocuous thing, but I have a growing concern about Christians and virtual ethics.

I had heard about virtual reality in its various forms and even dabbled in a few VR simulators myself in my college and seminary days. But the chickens came home to roost, so to speak, when I found my own children playing first person role player games. At first, I didn’t pay too much attention to what they were doing—they seemed to have fun building things in the virtual world of Minecraft—a world built with virtual Legos (my children would be quick to correct me here, but this hopefully conveys the point—you build your virtual world out of virtual blocks). Any way, things seemed to be going fine until I heard my boys bantering back and forth, “Oh yeah! You killed those villagers just so you could take their treasure.” To say the least, I didn’t like what I was hearing.

I told my boys, “Virtual or real world, you always act in a Christ-like manner. I don’t care if you’re playing a game or not, you don’t kill people or things to take advantage of them.” I told them that if I caught them killing villagers again, I’d delete the game and disallow their screen time.

Some people might believe that I over-reacted—it is, after all, a game, right? No one is getting hurt—it’s just imaginary. Maybe I did overreact, but at the same time, I also know that human beings are creatures of habit. If you pick up a shovel and regularly use it, before long you’ll develop calluses on your hands—the shovel leaves its mark on you. This is the case, I believe, with everything in life. You can do and use things that leave good or bad marks on you. I didn’t want my children to get used to the idea of being brutal and cruel—I didn’t want this seemingly innocent form of entertainment leaving calluses on their souls to make them indifferent to those who are weak and suffering or to be willing to inflict pain upon others for the sake of self-advancement. Our virtual ethics can seamlessly bleed over into our real-world conduct.

I remember watching news coverage of the 1997 Paducah school shooting where law enforcement authorities commented that the shooter was not formally trained with firearms but nevertheless hit most of his victims center-mass, a feat they attributed to his many hours of playing first-person shooter video games. There were, of course, other factors involved in this tragedy but virtual reality played a role.

I’m not saying, if you play violent video games you’ll go out and commit mass murder, but I am saying that it can lead you ever so indiscernibly away from Christ until your conscience is numb to the things of God. Whatever we do in life can have negative or positive cumulative effect upon us. This is one reason, I believe, the apostle Paul encourages us to meditate upon “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). This may mean, therefore, that you don’t let your kids play certain virtual reality games, but I suspect that there are plenty of others out there that foster commendable virtues. Regardless of the venue, let us affirm with Kuyper the universal sovereignty of Christ in all areas of life, whether in the virtual or real-world realms.