What kinds of movies, TV, music, books, etc., can a Christian enjoy and still be honoring to God? No other issue has been the source of more debate and friction between Christians in our media-saturated and pleasure-seeking society. This issue has been the source of so many legalistic rules in an attempt to keep Christians from being contaminated by the world.
Some Christians say we should avoid movies altogether; others would say G-rated ones are acceptable, and others say that you can watch whatever you want. Christians are far too loose on their entertainment standards, but on the other hand, many others overreact to the dangers of modern media by setting up rules that “go beyond what is written.” Can we understand these issues in a way that avoids extremes and maintains a biblical balance?
If someone were to approach me and say that I were in sin for watching and promoting the movies list in my blog or shelved in my personal library then I would say, “Let’s look at the heart.” Is what your are convinced in the heart to be sinful or evil what I should be convinced is sinful or evil? Is there law or liberty on this issue?
The Bible offers very few specifics on the issue of media/entertainment. Here there is no easy answer. It is a matter of “the heart”—a term which the Bible refers to as the “inner man,” where we think, desire, worship, and make decisions (“mind” and “will” are aspects of the heart; Gen.6:5, Prov.4:23, 23:7). Jesus says that “whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,…that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” (Mk.7:18-21) He then goes on to say evil comes “from within, out of the heart.”
What I take into my eyes and ears can definitely tempt and influence me, but it cannot necessarily cause me to sin. Why take the risk then and use my liberty to watch an R-rated movie I know will have violence, vulgar language, etc? To this there is no easy answer.
There is nothing inherently wrong or evil about some of the media people enjoy today, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it merely for entertainment. Ecc.9:9 tells us to “enjoy life” and throughout the book to “eat, drink and be merry”, of course we are to enjoy life within the moral confines of the Scripture. Now if the entertainment is causing you to be desensitized by sin or tempting you to do evil them it should be avoided altogether. And such verses have been used offensively, “avoid of the appearance of evil”, and do not be conformed to the world,” which both of these verse are primarily targeting the heart/mind rather than appearance.
Media and entertainment can be used for godly purposes. Even Hollywood produced TV, movies and music can be a great platform for sharing the gospel. I have often used movie clips and songs from today’s popular culture to share biblical truth. Both the strength and weakness of secular media can be useful tools for building an unbelievers (and believers) understanding of biblical truth. I have been encouraged to hear from a few teens after using a secular song to amplify a biblical truth that later when they were listening to secular radio and heard the song they were reminded of the biblical truth.
Most Christians can enjoy the music of Mozart and Tchaikovsky even though one was a libertine and the other a homosexual. So why can’t we enjoy modern media even though they are ungodly? To His people God “has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight” (Ecc.2:26). The abilities that unbelievers have been given to them by God and can be used for His glory even though they do not give credit to God for their gifts and use them with evil intentions. This does not mean all of the unbeliever’s media is for Christians to enjoy, but it is certainly reasonable to assume some of it is.
The movies I enjoy and promote illustrate biblical principles. Now I am guilty of watching far too many movies that I would be ashamed to admit I have watched and enjoyed. For these I have repented. I know it is my responsibility to be wise and careful what I take into my eyes, and discerning about the trust and error depicted in movies and TV. If there are movies in the list that offend another Christian and cause them to have a tarnished view of my walk with God. Then I must ask, “Who are they to judge?” And do they know my heart?
The 7 E’s of Entertainment(by Dave Swavely):
Exalt God. 1 Cor.10:31; Mt.4:10, Lk.4:8; Rom.14:6, 1 Thess.5:18
Exercise biblical discernment. 1 Thess.5:21; Phil.4:8
Expose evil rather than enjoy it. Eph.5:10-12
Economize your time. Eph.5:15-16
Edify your brothers and sisters. 1 Cor.14:26, 8:13; Rom.15:2, 14:13; Lk.17:1-2
Excise anything that tempts you to sin. Mt.5:29-30; Rom.13:12-14
Eliminate anything you’re not sure about. Rom.14:23