I was hanging out with some Christian friends awhile back, and as so often happens, the conversation turned to movies including an objectionable R-rated one. I was told to plug my ears so that I wouldn't be offended by one friend's positive perspective on the film.
I simply noted, "It doesn't matter what I think, it matters what the Lord thinks." Fortunately, this person took this comment in the spirit in which I intended it — not cutting or condemning, but thought-provoking. He would later tell me that my words helped him make changes to his viewing habits.
Our thoughts about media consumption should be determined by God's thoughts, not the other way around. Although this idea is straightforward, my experience tells me that living it out can be tricky because many people of faith consider only this: Do I think I will enjoy this movie, show, website, video game, song, book or magazine?
That's not to say that making good media decisions is easy. Even strong, mature believers find navigating the murky waters a bit of a gray area. I'll admit I'm a black-and-white sort of person called to make judgment calls about often-cloudy media. I much prefer subjects that clearly are right or wrong, in bounds or out, positive or negative. Today's entertainment often doesn't fit neatly into those categories.
For instance, should a single profanity be reason enough for a 17-year-old to avoid a certain movie? What about for a 7-year-old? How much violence is too much? Is an hour a day of video gaming excessive? Even among well-meaning Christians, there is no consensus.
I do believe, though, that while God wants us to be happy, on a narrow mountain pass holiness has the right-of-way. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). He also pointed out that those who follow Him should "deny" themselves and take up their cross (Luke 9:23). Obedience is God's priority. As your children embrace this concept it will help them say "no" to troublesome media products — even when their friends are saying "yes." When being entertained is valued more highly than honoring the Lord, we've strayed into dangerous — and contentious — territory.
'What Would Jesus Do?'
It's Friday night. The long-awaited, certain-to-be-a-box-office-smash starts playing every 30 minutes at the local theater. Your oldest is begging to go because "all" his friends will be there. Your daughter's been invited to a slumber party where some romantic comedy is the big draw. Your youngest is raving about a hot new band his buddies like. You just want to kick back with your spouse, pop some popcorn, and watch a new pay-per-view movie.
How do you and your family make decisions about these entertainment opportunities and know in your heart you've made the right ones? Is there a straightforward guideline all of you can agree to follow?
While there are factors like age appropriateness, spiritual maturity, and the possibility of being a "stumbling block" to a brother (Romans 14:13), I think the lion's share of media choices can be made by asking the question popularized more than a decade ago by the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets. The fad may be passé, but the principle behind it will never fade.
I actually prefer an expanded version of the question, something like this: If Jesus were walking the planet today with His 12 disciples, how would He respond if Peter, John, or Matthew asked, "Can we go see or listen to [fill in the blank here]?" Or "How about if we play this video game?"
These are questions we should always ask before choosing entertainment. And they're questions we need to train our kids to ask as well.
Help your son or daughter understand that Christ's answer to these questions would be based entirely upon His love for His disciples, not on a desire to squelch their fun. None of us knows what Jesus would do or say in every situation, but it's our job to train our kids to prayerfully seek what He likely would do based on His holiness and character.