2 Corinthians 10:5
By Drew Zuverink
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Throughout this devotional I am going to be using the word "movies" as an interchangeable word representing all forms of entertainment. Feel free to substitute songs, tv shows, comedians or whatever else might be more applicable to your life.
Now the very fact that Christians ask the question, "What kinds of movies are ok for us to watch?" clearly shows that we correctly understand that not every movie, song or show is morally acceptable for a Christian to be entertained by. Even though scripture does not address the question head on, because there were no movies back when it was written, we correctly assume that we can use a few passages as a guide for this issue.
Now when this question is raised I often hear reasoning that sounds like this; "If what you are watching causes you to sin then you shouldn't watch it, but if you can watch it without sinning, then it isn't wrong." So if you are able to watch a violent movie without feeling an increased urge to go out and commit violence, then you are in the clear. The same goes for other sins such as lust. If you are able to watch a movie that portrays premarital sex or adultery in a positive light without being tempted to lust, you are also in the clear.
I disagree with this reasoning for three big reasons. First, I do not believe that the deciding factor of whether a movie is morally acceptable to watch or not is; "does it cause us to imitate the sin?" Some movies simply portray too much sin to be watched by Christians, regardless of how it would influence us. For example; say that a young man or woman came to you for advice. They told you that they enjoyed watching pornography and they wanted to know if it was morally acceptable for them to do so as a Christian. They assured you that they are able to watch it without lusting and the only reason that they enjoy the films is because they enjoy the acting. And say they are telling the truth and they aren't lusting at all. Would you tell them that it is still wrong for them to watch pornography? My guess (and my hope) is that you all would advise the young person that it is indeed wrong for them to be entertained by pornography. Period. Why? Because the sin of what the people are doing in those films is wrong and Christians should not watch that. You might even question how they could possibly be entertained by something that God is so opposed to. It would absolutely reveal some deep issues if a Christian could watch X rated videos with a clean conscience.
The second big reason that I do not subscribe to the, "as long as it doesn't cause me to sin," reasoning, is because I don't believe you. I'm sorry but I do not believe people when they tell me that they are able to watch sinful movies without being tempted to sin themselves. Someone might argue, "Ah but I watched a violent movie the other day and it didn't cause me to go out and kill someone." True enough, but what if we examined your thoughts during the movie and afterwards. Would we find an increase of hateful thoughts? Would we find thoughts of revenge? Would we find enjoyment of taking justice into your own hands instead of leaving it up to God? What about judgmental or harsh thoughts? That's for movies that portray violence positively, don't even get me started on movies that portray sinful sexual content in a positive light. There is not a human on this earth who could convince me that they were able to watch even a comedy that made light of adultery without being led into sin. Even if you are not led into a physical affair, the movie will cause your mind to wander sinfully. How do I know this? Because movies are made to influence people. They are meant to move you emotionally. They are meant to make you feel a certain way. They are very successful in doing this - it's why we love them. We would not enjoy them if they did not make us feel anything.
Thirdly and finally, I disagree that we should discern what movies are morally acceptable to be entertained with, by if it causes us to sin, because Christians are supposed to be sensitive to sin. God hates sin. Christians should too. Paul tells the Romans in chapter 9 to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Choosing to be entertained by sinful content absolutely means that we will have to lower our standards of hating what is evil - at least for the duration of the film. Otherwise we would not be able to enjoy it. This leads to a desensitization of sin where we no longer hate it but we tolerate it more and more. And the more that Christians tolerate sin, the less they resemble Christ who was hated because he testified that the world was evil. (John 7:7)
I see in scripture a calling to very carefully guard our minds and to be very selective with what we put into it. Our mind ought to be a sacred place because it is so intimately involved with our transformation into the image of Christ. The passages below illustrate this idea. I am not going to give a blanket statement for exactly what movies are off limits for Christians, certainly there is some discernment involved. I'm also aware that there are other factors involved in these decisions, but I do believe that for many Christians today - we have become too free in regards to our entertainment choices. What we consume affects us, whether that's food or entertainment. If we would like to be conformed more perfectly into the image of Christ we will need to be more selective with our entertainment choices. This is hardly a sacrifice, for if I can trade in a few movies for a more Christ - like existence, it's a small price to pay.
May the passages below serve as a guide for you.
2 Corinthians 10:5 "... we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ." (If I watch this movie will I have certain thoughts that are not obedient to Christ's laws?)
Romans 12: 9 "hate what is evil, cling to what is good." (Will I need to lower my standard of hating evil in order to enjoy this movie?)
Romans 12:2 "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (In what way will this movie transform me? Will the thoughts that I will have transform me more into the image of Christ? Will they do the opposite?)
Philippians 4:8 "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (What redeemable qualities are in this movie? Will my thoughts be blessed by it's content?)