Evaluating entertainment choices {and why I’m not seeing “50 Shades of Grey”}

Entertainment is an area of Christian life where there is some freedom. Here’s what I mean. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say that followers of Christ should only listen to Christian music or that believers shouldn’t watch any movies with a rating higher than ‘PG’.” It’s not always a black and white issue and there is no hard-fast rule. There is some level of freedom in this area to make choices according to wisdom and conscience.

Here’s what I’m not saying, though. I’m not saying that the Bible has nothing to say about our entertainment choices. Quite the contrary, actually. The Bible is full of commands and exhortations about the kinds of things followers of Jesus should allow to come into our minds and take up residence. God’s Word calls believers to be disciplined thinkers–those who think rightly about reality. And the ironic thing is that we Christians can be pretty flippant when it comes to making biblically wise choices about our entertainment. We often naively assume (or at least profess) that what we watch or listen to has nothing to do with who we are at the core. We believe books, movies and music can’t really affect what we believe or how we think and behave because it’s just entertainment. Right?!? In a supposed effort to avoid legalism and total abstraction from modern culture {good ditches to avoid}, it’s too easy to fall into the opposite ditch of reading, watching, and listening to anything and everything our world heralds as supreme entertainment without a second thought. But here’s the problem. As those who are in Christ, we need to give it some thought. As children of God on gospel mission, we’re sent into the world but not from the world. It is crucial that we understand the culture into which we’re sent; yet, we are to think, believe, and behave in ways that are distinct from that culture. And this is not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of a lost and watching world {John 17:14-21}. Since we are incessantly infiltrated by the prevailing thought of the culture, this “in-the-world-not-of-the-world” thing can seem pretty tricky. But God tells us how to do it: We are to constantly renew our minds {Romans 12:2} by dwelling on that which is true {Philippians 4:8}. And the Bible is the one source that always tells us what’s really true about reality because God’s words are truth {John 17:17}.

And here’s where we get to 50 Shades of Grey, the first volume of a wildly popular trilogy of erotic romance novels with a film adaptation set to release around Valentine’s Day. I have not {and will not} read any of the books, but I’ve heard plenty about them and done some research. Here’s what I know: These books have topped best-selling lists around the world, yet most critical reviews have ranked them pretty low in terms of quality literature. The plot follows the relationship of 21-year-old Anastasia Steele and 27-year-old, successful businessman Christian Grey. The story is centered around their growing attractions and sexual relationship—a relationship that is deviant, borderline abusive and, apparently, described in explicit detail throughout the book. In fact, I’ve read several reviews that termed the series “porn without the pictures” or “mommy-porn.” And here’s the thing: Both believing and non-believing women alike {particularly those college-aged to mid-thirties} have devoured these books. Unfortunately, I think the situation will be no different when the movie hits theaters in a few weeks. But as Christ-followers, we need to think twice before buying movie tickets. And here’s why:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

To be in union with Christ means that God sees us as united with His Son. We share His righteousness through faith, and therefore, we are  to think like he thinks, to live like he lived, to enjoy things He would enjoy. To seek the things that are above is to intentionally seek more of Christ and to dwell on things that His Word tells us are true, honorable, pure, lovely, and commendable {Philippians 4:8}.

And guess what? God tells us that sex is all of those wonderful things when it’s done His way. A passionate sexual relationship between a husband and wife within the covenant bonds of marriage can be a beautiful, erotic, satisfying, and even holy thing. A sexual relationship between a man who is committed to love and cherish His wife sacrificially and a woman who is willing to respect and submit to the loving, selfless leadership of her husband tells the truth about God and His goodness. Sex God’s way is safe and good and so very fulfilling when both people in the relationship are focused on truly loving and pleasing the other. But sin always causes us to twist what God says is good because we believe He’s holding out on us. Sin perverts our sexual desire and causes us to crave what God has said is not good–to believe that we know better than Him. Sin causes us to be completely controlled by our perverse appetites {lusts} and to feed them with the twisted entertainment our culture is constantly producing and calling good. And that’s what we all do apart from Christ. Left to ourselves, all of us are broken, sexual sinners. But those who are in Christ have experienced true forgiveness and the start of transformation. And our lives should start to look different. Married or single, those in Christ are called to holy sexuality.

“And such were some of you. But you were washed. You were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. . . Flee from sexual immorality.” 1 Corinthians 7:11, 18a

Fleeing sexual immorality is not a gray area {no pun intended} for the believer. It’s black and white. And  fleeing sexually immoral acts begins with fleeing immoral thoughts, which begins with fleeing immoral pictures and word pictures. To flee means to run–to not allow immorality to even get close to our minds, much less our bodies. When it comes to womanhood, relationships, and sexuality, we must take in and dwell on what God says is true and right and good. As those who have been freed from the power of sin by the blood Jesus and have experienced His forgiving and transforming grace, we are to champion healthy, biblical femininity and erotic, marital love. As we live our lives in a world that proclaims lies from every medium, we must proclaim the truth about reality. . . the truth that God’s way is good and satisfying because God Himself is ultimately good and satisfying. And we just can’t do that if we’re sitting in a dark theater fully engrossed in 50 Shades of Grey.

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