Movies aren’t very original these days. At least it seems that way. Instead of spending a few extra bucks for quality script-writing and neat special effects, movie producers tend to go with the cheap, manufactured kind that guarantee them millions more in return. It’s a business. Not an art anymore. Yeah, movies like Inception (and even the remake of Star Trek, see here) still pull off some originality with the script and effects, but they seem so few. So very few.
When I was reading through Mark 7-9 tonight at Starbucks, I was thinking about the rarity of good movies and how the majority of them (the bad ones) tend to influence our lives. At least for me; when I go on a bad movie binge, my vocabulary is slightly more vulgar, my thoughts are a little more crude, and my overall focus on Christ becomes diluted. And then I read through 7:14-23 of Mark, more specifically, verse 20; “And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him.’” This made me think; is it the movies I’m watching that are causing me to think in a certain sinful way or is it how I filter through those movies?
Granted, Jesus was talking about “clean” and “defiled” foods, but I think the teaching could be applied to modern-day things like movies and songs. For the most part, movies are worldly things; written from more of a secular theology rather than a Christ-honoring theology. This isn’t to say that they can’t be good movies; it just means that most script-writers probably don’t consider the morality of Christ before they submit what they’ve written. If anything, they’re out to write a good story – even if it means forsaking certain moral things.
This puts the burden on us; those who seek to honor God with how we think, talk and walk. It means we have to be watchful and discerning. I’ve heard Christian songs that completely denounce the media entirely; basically saying that at every step of the way, the media is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons to cause Christians to slip and distance themselves from walking with God. This is one approach we can take when we come to watch a movie or listen to a new song. But it’s a bit too extreme. I’m not sure this mindset is what Jesus was talking about in passages like Mark 9:43-49. He wants us to be extreme, but not to the point where we’re completely disconnected from what’s going on in the world since we chose to ignore movies, songs, and media as a whole.
No, Jesus wants us to be critical about what goes in, so that when something comes out, we’re better prepared to honor Him. It’s an internal issue; we must exercise our ability to discern what is Godly and what isn’t. Are these rated ‘R’ movies causing me to think in a way that dishonors God? Well then if I can’t find a way to think in a pure manner, it’s probably time to stop watching them – at least for a while. Are these new rap songs from figures like Eminem causing me to say a few more cuss words during my day? Well – like with movies – if I can’t find a way to filter out the bad things and let the good things shine, then I probably ought to cut myself off from those things. It’s probably time to stop taking those things in.
If you aren’t bothered much by vulgar and crude language, then enjoy the new movies and songs of this world. But if you want to honor Jesus with pure speech, thought, and action, then it’s Him and His ways we must consume. Jesus’ words remain true: it’s not what you consume that makes you evil, necessarily; but it is what comes out. And from my short life thus far in this world, what I take in is almost always reflected in what comes out. If I’m cussing more and thinking in impure ways, then I’ve probably been watching or listening to the wrong things. I believe, especially with our super-consumer culture, we are what we consume. I know Jesus said what goes in isn’t what defiles a person, but I think we aren’t naturally apt to filter out the bad, and therefore what we take in tends to affect what we put out.
It all comes down to personal convictions. If Jesus’ life and teachings move you in such a way that He is all you want in this world, then there is an intense challenge in front of us. No longer can we pass through this life oblivious to our surroundings. No, instead, we must become intensely critical, testing everything to see where it comes from; God or the enemy.
There is a moment depicted in Mark that struck me during my reading tonight. Jesus was teaching His disciples that He must suffer and die and Peter tried to rebuke Him. “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man,’” (8:33). And then Jesus does something interesting; He gathers everyone – disciples and the crowd; “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,’” (8:34-35).
Jesus was serious about living. And it’s clear He wants us to be serious about it, too – even if it means forsaking a worldly reputation; even if it means not listening to the popular songs or watching the popular movies; and even if it means thinking about what we’re putting into our minds and hearts. I would rather live out my days being critical about what the world teaches me than to be persuaded like a leaf in the changing breezes.
What do you think?