Occasionally, the church will highlight a specific show or movie that it feels warrants some attention, often employing social media to convey their message.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” was a prime example in recent years. As the book and movie grew in popularity (and notoriety), Christian sources responded, arguing that believers ought not support the franchise because of its explicit content and message. I remember seeing similar articles online as “Game of Thrones” grew in popularity. Presently, “13 Reasons Why” is in focus. In each case, Christian leaders recognized a trend in popular culture, perceived a danger in the media, and wrote to help the church respond biblically to the content. Although Christians may differ in their responses, I believe the fact that Christians are responding is a healthy thing (when handled with grace, truth, and love). Such responses show love for the brothers and sisters and concern for those who may not immediately perceive threats.
There’s a downside, though, to this process. As Christians highlight dangerous messages in media, the stories of which they speak receive more attention. This may not be bad in and of itself, but it often leads to a strange temptation, one that I feel often.
I’m a minister to students. I know that my students are not ignorant of what is popular. More often than not, they’ve already watched the shows, seen the movies, or read the books before I even know there are issues to address; and if they haven’t engaged the source material, they’re usually at least familiar with it. In my attempt to address the issues they’re facing, I often feel like I need to be familiar with the media in question. Maybe it’s a desire to be relevant, or maybe it’s a conviction that I need to critique a source itself, not second-hand accounts of the source – either way, I feel a need to engage the media in order to then present a biblical response to the students. This idea extends to my blogging, to my conversations with other Christians, and to my interactions with the lost. I want to know what is relevant so that I can meet it with the truth. I’ve learned, however, this isn’t always healthy or wise.
“Game of Thrones” is a good example. I love a good story, especially one of epic proportions. I’m sure if I watched “Game of Thrones,” I’d enjoy it. But I also know enough about the show to know that viewing it would feed lust and would negatively affect my relationship with God. So I abstain. No matter what others may say about the show, either for it or against it, I know that if I were to watch it, I would stumble. I’m reminded of Paul’s words:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
1 Corinthians 10:23
Though the act may be lawful, I know that, for me, it is not helpful.
There are some things in the media that I will engage for the sake of understanding and response; some of these might cause other brothers and sisters to stumble. There are other things in the media that I will not engage for the sake of purity and focus; some of these might not cause other brothers and sisters to stumble. My standard of measurement is not my peer group or my news feed; my standard of measurement is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
If you’re struggling with what to engage in the world, I pray this encourages you to stop, pray, and go with God. Maybe you will be convicted that you need to engage for the sake of the kingdom. If so, glorify God in your pursuit. Maybe you will be convicted that you need to stop for the sake of the kingdom. If so, glorify God in your abstinence. In the end, you won’t be concerned with whether or not you ever finished that one show or watched that one movie or read that one story; don’t live like a passing trend is ultimate.
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31