“You can’t watch that anymore, that’s filth!” If you grew up in a legalistic household like me, then you’ve likely heard statements like this. You infer that it must be because of what the character on TV is wearing or the language they are using. But no one really explains why you can’t watch that show or read that magazine. All you know is that you’re a Christian and according to a list of man-made rules, you can’t watch that.
If we were frustrated growing up with strict rules on TV and magazines, imagine how our children will feel if they have extensive, unexplained rules in a world with not only TV but limitless social media and Internet options.
Friends, I implore you, we must break the chains of legalism in our homes. Guilt will not draw us to true repentance and only the grace given through the cross of Christ can change our hearts. Rather than upholding a list of rules, we must explain why we refrain from certain types of entertainment.
Joshua Harris, author of Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is), shares that “Entertainment goes straight for the heart. The danger of not bringing God’s standards to bear in what you watch isn’t only that you might see a naked body, but that the values of a sinful world will shape what you’re living for” (p.116-117). Viewing inappropriate material undermines the biblical conviction in our hearts. We become desensitized to nudity, language, and lewd conduct, allowing messages to seep into our hearts. Once these messages enter our hearts, they become normal inputs and can manifest in ungodly thinking and behavior.
How Can We Guard Our Hearts?
Harris quotes John Wesley’s mother on her advice to her son, “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself” (p. 120).
We must consider if we are allowing media to have an unhealthy influence on our heart, body, and mind in order to shield against drifting away from God. In terms of application, Harris provides two things to avoid: media that promotes an evil message (celebrating sin such as, lying, adultery, murder) and media that uses an evil method (featuring performers that behave in ways that are shameless and immoral) (p.133).
I bet you’re thinking, “Wait, did she just give us rules?” My goal is to provide you with small, tangible safeguards for you and your family. My husband and I call these guardrails. Guardrails are a safety feature designed to prevent a drifting car from completely going off the road. We need spiritual guardrails to keep us on the road, not harsh, confusing rules that cause us to end up in a ditch.
In our homes, let’s use guardrails not legalistic rules leading to failure and condemnation. Let’s equip ourselves and our families to discern what media to engage. Let’s explain to our children why certain media is toxic and discuss how it undermines the good, perfect will God has for their lives. Let’s talk about how God gives us freedom and why we should choose entertainment that is aligned with His desires. Let’s teach our kids based on biblical truths with the love and grace that Christ gives us. After all, how can we be the light in the darkness of the world, if we are caught in the darkness ourselves?
Millennials, let’s say goodbye to legalism and hello to teaching others about the Lord Jesus Christ’s desire for our hearts.