Toward Cleaner Entertainment

remote-control-205828_640A friend and sister in Christ came with her husband to visit me a few years ago. We talked, we laughed, we baked, and during their visit I shared one of my favorite movies with them. I love the characters, the humor, the creepy bad guy, and the happy ending. I’ve seen it a dozen times at least. But I never realized until my Christian friend was sitting there on that couch with me how much language and nudity are in that movie! I was intensely embarrassed. Now, to be fair, the majority of the times I have watched that movie have been with the aid of the TVGuardian device, which cuts out bad language. I probably never worried about the scene with the mostly naked woman because as a young person, you learn early that it’s not supposed to matter if you see people of your gender undressed. But with our husbands on that couch? You’d better believe it mattered! I have recently apologized to my friend for putting those images and words in their hearts. I was just not thinking! But I have to wonder, how does a Christian come to find herself in that situation? How did that happen to me?

Another movie, shared with us by a preacher’s wife and beloved by my family at holiday time, was on television one afternoon and my dad ​​and I were watching. I’ve seen this movie probably two dozen times. A humorous line was spoken about a male body part, and my dad said this: “I don’t know why we ever let you watch this.” We changed the channel. That’s the question, isn’t it? Why do I ever watch these movies in the first place? ​It must have been a time when I had my guard completely down. Maybe at the time I chose these favorite movies, my senses had not been exercised to discern good and evil (Hebrews​ 5:14​). My conscience must not have been trained properly, or might have been seared. And now that I appreciate the characters and the plots, it’s hard to let them go.

I feel the same about the sitcom Friends. When Friends came out, I was only six, but as it played well into my teen years I remember Christians saying how ungodly and terrible that show was. Well, I guess I wanted to see for myself, because when another Christian recommended it in my twenties I bought the DVD set and watched every episode. After seeing it all, I must say that the series was very well written. I laughed so much. The characters are unforgettable. At the end of it all, you really feel like Chandler and Joey and Ross and Rachel and Phoebe are your own friends (and could Monica please come clean my house?!), and you miss them when the show ends. But you know what? That show has loads of sexual humor, lesbians raising a child, unscriptural divorces, a man having had a sex change, a female minister, lots of immodesty, a seance, cohabitation, and exactly zero main characters who save themselves for marriage. You might be wondering, why would someone who claims to be a Christian watch nine seasons of that sort of content? I think the answer is emotional involvement. Good entertainment makes the viewer identify with the main characters. So when I say I feel like Chandler is my friend, what I ​reveal is that I have become emotionally invested in the show, and have thereby lost the ability to consider the content objectively. When you research the content of a new movie you’re thinking about seeing, using a resource like Kids in Mind or ScreenIt you can read a detailed report of all the objectionable content within a movie. When the movie is stripped of its beloved characters, flashy trailer, and well-known storyline, you can easily tell which movies and shows to avoid. I can make an objective decision as to whether or not I’m going to buy a ticket or watch the pilot. But it’s different when you’ve already watched a season’s worth of episodes, or when a movie is as much a family tradition as the Christmas tree. I’ve got movies and tv and music I became familiar with when I wasn’t being vigilant, and now it’s hard to let them go. I’m emotionally involved. We watch that movie every Christmas… and it’s time to stop. When preachers say, “Could you watch your favorite tv shows with Jesus on the couch by you?” I always thought they were talking to someone else, but the truth is they’ve been talking to me all along.

You want to know who is supposed to have had my emotional investment first? Christ. When He asked for my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), and I said He could have it, that ruled out letting inappropriate entertainment into my heart and my mind. Even if it’s a hugely influential part of pop culture. Even if every single one of my friends, in the church, is watching it. Even if it’s well written and really, really funny. As one preacher said, we mustn’t laugh at what makes God cry.

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Priorities

This was the first devo I had planned for camp last week. Only six little verses, but they took us 45 minutes to talk through. It’s because each one has so many implications. Each one is so much to apply to our lives.

  1. Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Put God in first place and worry about the other things in life afterward. He says He’ll provide the basics for you if you make sure you are faithful to Him.
  2. Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Your goals, hopes, dreams, and plans need to be oriented around spiritual things. Make sure your material and education goals fall in line with God’s plan. You want to study for a degree? Great! You’d better choose a school near a faithful congregation of Christians, and you’d better not choose so many classes that you can’t make it to worship. You want to save up for a house? Congrats! You’d better be giving as you’re prospered along the way (1 Cor 16:2). Set spiritual goals for yourself, like preparing a devotional for young people, leading singing, or leading prayer. Determine to be a Bible class teacher soon, or an elder or ladies’ day teacher one day. Plan to work in the kingdom. Don’t allow yourself to become so busy that you don’t have time for the Lord.
  3. Daniel 1:8: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” In order to keep God first, you must purpose in your heart to follow Him. Like the verse from Colossians, you must set your mind on things above. You must decide now, before you’re around the temptation, that you’re going to choose God’s way. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.
  4. Luke 9:62: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Back in the day, plowing fields was done with an animal and a man. You had to keep your eyes focused dead ahead to keep your rows straight. If you turned around to look back, your arms would tweak the handle of the plow and give you a crooked row. Jesus says someone who has put his hands to the handle of Christianity and looks back to his former, sinful life is unfit for the kingdom. When Lot’s wife looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26). Who knows what she was thinking about. Whatever it was, it wasn’t worth it.
  5. Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live…” God knows there are many things vying for our time. He has asked us to choose the best things, to choose life. Prioritize with God at the top.