Continued from my previous post, “Questions about Biblical Freedom“
Question 3: How do you know what is appropriate to watch on TV or how do you develop convictions regarding what you watch?
First we need to remember the questions from the post entitled the “The Privilege of Freedom” by asking ourselves 1) Is this TV show or movie helpful?, 2) Am I mastered by it?, 3) Is it hurtful to others’ faith, 4) Am I watching to the glory of God? These questions really help us bring God and others’ faith into the center of our TV watching.
Another question to ask is “Does this series or movie decrease my desire for God, his word, or for prayer?” We must be aware of the subtle slip into spiritual laziness or spiritual anemia.
Some further thoughts are also helpful for us to think through.
- Be honest about your weaknesses. As you try to discern what you can watch you must begin by being honest about your weaknesses. Does violence tempt you to anger, does cussing tempt you to develop a potty mouth, does sexual content tempt you to lust, does constant ethical compromise (constant lies) tempt you to lessen your moral standards or does simply watching TV no matter the content leave you spiritually or emotionally dull? If so, then you need to go after our most satisfying Savior and avoid your particular vice. (cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7-8)
- For me cussing or violence, especially in war/action movies doesn’t tempt me to anger or to mimic their words or behavior. However nudity or sexual content is not good for my heart. So much so that when we go to the mall or our shopping, my wife is on the look out for me warning where not to look. (A helpful thought from Pastor John Piper in explaining why nudity is different than other temptations like violence or moral corruption is that in violent movies the war, violence, corruption is not really happening on the set, where as, if nudity is shown, that person is really naked.) Whether our struggle is lust or anger or a lack of self-control with our mouth, we must be honest and careful where we are weak and be earnest to avoid the temptation. We must not pretend we are strong where we are weak or we will be pulled away from a vibrant, gospel-loving, Christ-committed, others-pursuing kind of faith. The gospel of grace frees us to admit weakness because the grace of forgiveness covers us and in our weaknesses Christ’s strength is made perfect.
- Redeem TV. In areas where you might not be exceptionally weak we still must work to redeem TV and movies. That is we must keep working to put treasuring Christ and loving others at the center of TV watching.
- For example, when I watch March Madness (college basketball), I enjoy the competition (because I am reminded of my God who always wins and teaches us through our losses to trust Him and His purposes); I enjoy the thrill of close games (because I don’t know the outcome but God does.); I enjoy the amazing ability of these players (because I don’t have it and God’s common grace has given some people superb skill and excellence), and I enjoy seeing the unexpected happen (because God’s shows off his majesty in the ironic- the weak beating the strong, the experts confounded by the underdog’s victory, the money loaded programs getting beat by the smaller programs). Yes God can be seen in basketball. God gives us eyes to see you and worship you not the sport.
- Another example of redeeming TV comes when I watch war movies. Most of the time they really strengthen my faith. I share these things not to try to win you over to action/war movies but to try to model thinking through what we watch so that we can watch TV as unto the Lord.
- Many of these shows not only remind me of real historical events and educate my mind to better understand humanity and our world, but they also help me keep life and death in my mind. A mind and heart that are not given to remember the fragility of life will be a life that sets its hope less on Christ’s coming and more on the things of now. Biblically we are called to set our minds on things above by comparing our present sufferings to the eternal weight of glory that awaits God’s people (2 Cor 4:16-18). Psalm 103 reminds us that God’s compassion is fueled by his knowledge of our fleeting frame. In like manner the more we remember that our life is but a breath (Psalm 78:33, 39) and that we are like grass that withers, the more we will long for another world where all wrongs are right, injustice is brought to justice, and peace reigns over all the earth.
- Another way God uses war movies to strengthen my faith is to show me courage and remind me to be bold without fear. It is a boldness that many times helps us hold life loosely for a greater cause. The heroes usually are sacrificing their lives for the good of another or for a greater cause of justice. As Christians we must be bold and courageous in a life of love for the cause of the gospel. These portrayals of justice, courage, and risk are helpful for my heart as I love others and contend for the greatest cause of all- the glory of God in the gospel.
- Never rejoice in sin. Finally we must be careful to never rejoice over sin. Rejoicing in what God hates is counter to faith. In Hosea 9:1, God calls the people of Israel to silence. They were to stop rejoicing in their sin and the sin of others.
- Similarly as we watch TV and movies, Don’t rejoice over someone’s sexual escapades. Don’t rejoice in revenge. Don’t rejoice that evil seems to get the upper hand. Don’t rejoice in murder.
- We watch to grow in faith. We watch to grow to love others. We don’t watch to rejoice in what God hates.
As Americans are wasting their lives in front of TV’s, not necessarily because we are watching TV, but because we are not watching it as unto the Lord. We as followers of Jesus need to be able to use the freedoms we have to deepen our rest in and enjoyment of Christ. May these things be helpful as we seek to honor God with our eyes and mind. Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if you eye is healthy, you whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). May we not waste our TV watching but bring Christ and loving others to the center of our leisure.
Loving Christ’s love for us with you