TV shows and Films are big business and we spend a lot of our time watching. In the UK, perhaps ten years of our lives are spent in front of the television or PC screen being entertained. As Christians we want to be discerning. We don’t just want to watch whatever is on without any consideration of its impact.
The world of visual entertainment has changed dramatically. Accessibility on many devices most of the time means we have become our own TV scheduler and have unlimited access to a seemingly endless supply of content. Netflix for example has 60 million subscribers and apparently 61% of those signed up binge-watch TV shows every week. So Christian discernment has become even more vital and necessary for us.
Mark 7:14-16 tells us that the root cause of sin is our hearts. If we see non-Christian values portrayed on screen they don’t have an immediate spiritual effect on us. We don’t instantly start swearing or fornicating, but they can plant seeds in our hearts which may later lead us into sin. So here are some questions to ask about whatever I am watching
Is the portrayal of sin gratuitous and corrupting?
There are some things that are now commonplace on many shows –
The loose use of language and the habit of responding to any difficult situation with words that degrade God or something in God’s creation can seem normal and slowly creep into our own ways of speaking and responding to problems.
We can learn to accept ungodly violence as acceptable or just become de-sensitised to violent situations in the real world as if they are normal.
Nudity & Sexual Content
We can develop impure sexual thoughts or lust or just become desensitised and lose the wonder and specialness of sex within the covenant of marriage that God has ordained for us. People sleeping with each other for fun normalises a way of life Jesus doesn’t want us to lead and we can learn relationship models that are unwise and unfruitful.
Given the prevalence of those things in most adult shows does this mean that we never watch anything? Some might say yes but I am not suggesting that. There are good things to enjoy for the artistry; for amusement and entertainment; for how they make us think, for educating us in how the world thinks; for portraying life realistically and with all the emotional content and for seeing the consequences of sin.
But certainly if the primary focus or the great proportion of the content of a film is degrading you might at the very least want to ask yourself the question – is this helping me follow Jesus? We should be part of the world but not looking longingly. 1 John 2:16 tells us that lust and pride fundamentally worldly principles. Is what we are watching causing my lust or pride to grow?
Will this film or TV show lead others to sin?
There are baby Christians and more mature Christians. There are those who can easily distinguish good from evil and reality from fantasy and critically watch with a biblical world-view. There are those who are only beginning to develop this kind of wisdom. So we need to take care we do not lead others to sin by following our example without discernment. An interesting related question would be whether we are happy to watch whatever it we are watching with a spouse or a group of friends. If we are not comfortable to share the experience, it is a warning sign that perhaps we do not have a clear conscience about what is going on in front of our eyes.
Why am I watching this?
If in good conscience I know that I am watching it with bad motives or can sense the corrupting power I should stop watching. (Proverbs 23:17) Often the things we watch can lead us to long for the lifestyle.
Do I need to exercise self-control?
I might tick all the boxes and I’m happy with the content of what I am watching but what about the quantity. If the amount of time I am spending consuming the endless supply of entertainment then maybe it’s becoming an addiction – something that dominates my life and displaces other important things (1 Cor 6:12), I might need to stop watching and go and find something better to do!
This is not meant to be a set of rules to follow but just some questions to help us. At the same time we remember the grace of God. For all those times we have stepped over the mark, we need to repent and know the sure forgiveness of the Saviour.
This based on a seminar given by Tom Warburton at our Autumn School.
As always, comments most welcome.
This blog was written by Graham Nicholls.
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