How Do You Watch a Movie Like a Christian?
Netflix. Hulu. Disney+. Paramount+. Amazon Prime. HBO Max.
Encanto. Boba Fett. Redeeming Love. Ted Lasso. Squid Game. Spiderman.
Should Christians be entertained by these platforms, movies, and shows? Is it possible to consume the latest movies or binge-worthy shows and glorify God? How?
From the ultra-conservative who only watches movies recommended by their pastor, to the movie connoisseur who somehow finds “the gospel” even in the most explicit content, the entertainment we consume often creates blurry lines for Christians.
How can we bring biblical clarity and biblical purity to bear on our entertainment choices?
Here are six principles to help you fight for purity:
You should never feel victimized by sin in your entertainment choices. In our day, there are several resources available to you to aid in making a decision about what you watch.
First, a simple glance at the rating of a movie can save you a lot of heartache. If the movie is rated for sexual content and nudity, don’t watch. Is this legalism? No. It’s fleeing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and it will help you see God (Matthew 5:8). Yet, some movies demand more careful thought. At this point, I always find it helpful to check a movie review site. You can find sites that offer a Christian perspective or just the facts. Either way, you should never walk out of the theater feeling taken advantage of – the resources are available. Take and use (Proverbs 4:6-7)!
2. Turn It Off
Sometimes, because of neglect or some other outlying circumstance, you will find yourself watching something that goes downhill. If what you watch is causing you to sin, you should turn it off.
When you do this, it does several things.
First, it tells the truth. When you turn off a sex scene, you are telling the truth about marriage, sex, covenant love, and purity. When you turn off uncalled for, excessive, and cruel, gore and violence, you are telling the truth about courage, honor, dignity, and human worth.
Second, it provokes conversation. Why did you turn it off? Why do you care so much about what you watch that it would cause you to walk out of a movie theater?
Third, and most importantly, it protects your soul. We can grieve the Holy Spirit by the things we do and say (Ephesians 4:30). We should be striving to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). Sometimes, obedience means saying “excuse me,” sidestepping out of the aisle, and waiting in the lobby of the theater.
No matter what you are watching, you should watch it like a Christian. There are glorious amounts of truth to be gleaned in movies and shows, but also horrendous amounts of deceit to be rejected as well. Ask yourself good questions while you watch:
What are the makers of this film trying to teach me? How do the relationships, circumstances, and actions of the characters relate to how the Bible presents life? Can I be grateful for what I am watching?
Hebrews 5:14 says that mature Christians are those who, “…have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Movies present wonderful opportunities to exercise moral discernment. Don’t watch passively, but actively – like a Christian!
4. Engage Together
Let movies and shows that you see with friends lead to good discussion. It is good at times to take a few moments to gawk at incredible special effects in movies, but if that is all you ever talk about you are missing out on a world of fellowship. Talk about things you agreed and disagreed with, not just things you liked and disliked about what you watched.
Let what you watch spur you on into greater depth. Movies can lead to conversations about war, marriage, love, hate, relationships, divorce, death, eternity, God, politics, and a million other important life issues. Engage in these discussions.
5. Beware of Infiltration
There is nothing like a steady diet of Hollywood to corrupt your view on beauty, truth, and goodness.
The world presents a definition of beauty marked by coke-bottle figures and perfectly sculpted men, but God says that charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but the fear of the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30). Bitterness and revenge are often presented by the world as therapeutic and good, but God says that we must forgive and show grace (Ephesians 4:32).
All too easily, Hollywood begins informing your values instead of Scripture. It rouses your feelings before faith, your passions before principles. Beware and renew your mind. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
6. Beware of Saturation
There is always something new to watch. And each new thing promises to be the very best thing that you must see. You don’t want to miss out, do you?
Remember that you are called to seek the Lord’s presence (Psalm 105:4), and enjoy his free grace, not gorge on movies. Sure, enjoy a movie with friends. Watch your favorite show with your spouse. However, don’t become so saturated with the newest and latest that the only means of “fellowship” you know is happening in front of movies instead of in real conversation about real life things.
The goal of movies, your favorite shows, or other entertainment is the same for every part of our lives: to glorify God and enjoy him. This glorifying of God happens in the small circumstances: the thoughtful response, the restrained tongue, and even the intentional viewing of movies and shows.
May God make it your aim to please him and enjoy him–even in front of a screen.
This is part 4 of a blog series on Recovering Purity Culture.
Spencer Harmon is the Nocatee Campus Pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. He is Co-Author of Letters to a Romantic: On Dating.