Legalism: Movies + Music

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

Although there are many global issues I could write about that are very prevalent in the world today, today I would like to talk about an issue that may seem minor, but can result in cataclysmic effects in Christianity. The issue I want to talk about is legalism. Since legalism is too large of a topic on its own, I am going to narrow down my discussion to two things: movies and music.

This post was inspired by a couple things and experiences from the past. Namely an open letter written by John Givez to Christian Hip Hop that was posted by Rapzilla (2) and a conversation I had with my good friend Jeremiah. In John Givez’ open letter to CHH, he touches on the stigma that is attached to him because everyone considers him to be so edgy that he has lost his spiritual edge, so to speak. That the way he operates and lives his life is not like the typical white, suburban, Evangelical-Christian. You know, that typical generalization and stereotype of every Christian in America. Take me for instance: the guy that looks like the 99 cent version of Leonardo Dicaprio, but who also always looks like he either just got back from the gym or is about to go to one.

Yet as Christians, we project these misconceptions of what a Christian should look, talk, and act like. These legalistic type and their keyboard warriors decided to call out John Givez for the way he lives his life and the way he goes about impacting the culture. So John Givez wrote a response letter to answer his skeptics. Then after reading the letter, I talked to my friend Jeremiah about legalism which led to a discussion on movies and music.

We talked about how we feel convicted by certain things that the other is not convicted to such an extreme degree. For instance, my friend is not comfortable watching an R-rated movie usually, but I on the other hand don’t mind depending on why it is rated R. Then when it comes to music we are again at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the positions are reversed. I cannot listen to music with foul language, but my friend is a lot more open to it then I am which is fine. I mean, I have no place to call out my friend for listening to music with foul language, if I watch movies with foul language. Right?

Now I am a film fanatic and I actually went to film school, so I am biased towards watching films over listening to music. I grew up watching war movies with my Dad and brothers late at night all throughout my childhood. War movies like Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, Gladiator, and so on that were very R-ratedWhen it comes to music on the other hand, I am a lot more cautious and skeptical to what I listen too.

In fact, I could count how many secular artists that I listen too off the top of my head on a regular basis. So now I ask myself, “Why is it that I am so restrictive towards music when it comes to whether or not it is Christian creators, but when it comes to my movie collection it is exclusively secular?” Why is that? Why do hold to this double-standard like a lot of other Christians?

I know for me personally that I honestly hate nearly every movie made by Christians because they are usually garbage, with the one exception being The Case For Christ movie which was actually pretty good. That may play a part in why I have more secular movies in my possession than secular music because there is a smaller supply of quality, Christian-oriented films that are also good. When comparing how many Christians are in the movie industry versus the music industry, it is pretty evident where the quality is best. In general, Christians in the movie industry are a joke compared to the Grammy-winning Christians in the movie industry.

Going back to legalism, when does someone go too far in what content they consume like movies or music? When is it okay for a fellow believer to correct another believer in love on what they are participating in? The best answer I can come to is that someone who has gone too far in whatever they are doing, is someone who is a) not glorifying God and b) is not reflecting Christ. If you can listen to secular music or watch secular movies, and not be hindered spiritually then go for it. If not, then you might want to reconsider what you are interested in as far as movies and music go.

For me, I have set up certain boundaries to ensure that I do not stumble into sin by going too far when it comes to these two mediums of art. This includes reading reviews from Common Sense Media (3), which is a website that tells you the content of most media and to what degree of content. For instance, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a 4 out of 5 stars for violence on Common Sense Media‘s review of the film, which means there is a lot of violence throughout the movie.

It could also be how you started your relationship with Jesus and became a Christian that influences what your specific borders for certain non-essential beliefs are going to be in your life. For example, I have these old family friends whose sons had such violent tendencies that just watching violent films would influence them to act extremely violently towards each other. So for that family, violent movies were not allowed because it tempted the two brothers into sinning towards each other.

Paul the Apostle wrote about legalism in two different places: Colossians 2:16-23 and Romans chapter 14. In the end, I could continue to discuss and try providing answers, but really I cannot truly say why I have certain standards for these two different mediums of entertainment. I will need to investigate and understand what pulls me away from God and draw borders accordingly on my own. One way you could go about finding safe boundaries for yourself is by studying these two passages in the Bible and understanding what hinders you or what doesn’t hinder you as a Christian. Like always, I hope this helps you if this is something that you struggle with in your life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://rapzilla.com/2015-08-john-givez-pens-open-letter-to-christian-hip-hop/
  2. http://www.rapzilla.com/rz/news/38-backstage/11361-john-givez-pens-open-letter-to-christian-hip-hop
  3. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
  4. Disclaimer

Waiting

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

This season of my life has been an interesting one. It has not been like previous seasons such as the time of intense spiritual warfare that lasted the duration of my first two years of high school. That was when I led a Christian club called “First Priority” at Eaglecrest High School.

On the other hand, it is also different than the season filled with teaching opportunities where God gave me the ability to lecture on why the Bible can be trusted, as well as teach in my church’s high school youth group on Titus 2:11-15. There was also the occasional spiritual small talk at work or school last year which was amazing to take part in with those who wrestled with certain concepts. Things like the Ontological Argument, “Is Catholicism Christian and can Christians be Catholic?”, and the small discussions concerning the existence of God.

But this season is different. It is different because in my life there is usually something huge I have to overcome and can only do so with the help of God. But this season does not have a mountain to conquer. It has no valley to explore or dark cavern of tribulation to go through, but is simply a time of waiting.

This season is significant because I have not had this much time to breath and look back at what I have gone through in my life. I do not like it that much either because I love to do things and accomplish great things that have purpose, but instead I am sitting on the sidelines as everyone else gets a turn at bat. I have friends who are getting married, having children, moving out, traveling the world, going on missions trips, and so much more. Then here I am just waiting for the next unexpected journey that God has for me.

Probably the funniest part of this season is that I do not know what I am waiting for or what lies ahead in my life! Is it marriage? No, God has told me to wait. Is it a missions trip? No, God has told me that that is neither my calling nor my purpose in life for now. Is it a career? No, God has told me that I am not ready and must first go to college to receive my education.

So what is it that I am so desperate to start? I have no idea. All I can do for now is wait. As I wait on the LORD, this passage comes to mind as I wait for my turn to hit a home run for the LORD:

Luke 16:10 (NKJV)

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is also unjust in much.”

Some other passages of scripture that come to mind are Acts 2:42 (NKJV), 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB), and Isaiah 40:29-31 (NKJV) during this season of preparing for my next adventure with the LORD my God. In the meantime, I have been keeping my mind, body, and most importantly, my spiritual state active. I have been studying and reading about the history of Christianity, working out to maintain my body which God has given me, and staying up to date on current events as the world gets closer to its dying day.

I have also spent a lot more time focused on the five basics of Christian living: reading the Bible, studying the Bible, memorizing portions of the Bible, praying, and sharing the gospel. So as I wait on the LORD during this time in my life, maybe this little blog-post can encourage you to stand strong and press on in your faith as maybe some of you wait on the LORD as well. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Disclaimer

1 + 1 = 1: Entering Marriage in the Modern World

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

There are many out there that usually skip the marital vows and go straight to the sexually and emotionally appealing part of a marriage, but when this happens they lose sight of what a relationship is really all about. Known as modern day dating or “friends with benefits,” this structure for relationships removes the covenant of marriage because a couple may want to immediately jump right into the “good stuff.” These so called relationships should really be referred to as, “children pretending to be adults who allow their senses to guide their every decision.”

In reality, that is what most people do when it comes to relationships. We have thrown marriage out the window because marriage is the hardest thing anyone will participate in for the very fact that it lasts years, decades, and even entire lifetimes. Marriage seriously takes a lot of work from both in the relationship.

What you find in the Western World is a lack of doing anything God’s way among most in society. This way of pursuing a relationship is similar in the way people go shopping for clothes. They try on a bunch of t-shirts, pants, socks, and so on before eventually finding “the one” outfit. This ideology for relationships is flawed because if you truly wanted to know who “the one” was, then you would have no need to try everyone else, but could just wait for God to reveal them to you. You would save time, money, and a lot of unnecessary complications. As Pastor Chuck Smith once said, “keep it simple stupid.”

In Psychology, Dr. Jean Piaget has this theory that there are four main stages of cognitive development in humans. They include the sensori-motor stage (birth to 2yrs.), the pre-operational stage (2yrs. to 7yrs.), the concrete operational stage (7yrs. to 11yrs.), and the formal operational stage (11yrs. to death). Now when observing a typical relationship in the Western World, both individuals may very well cognitively be in the formal operational stage, but in their relationship together, the couple lives like they are stuck in the sensori-motor stage which consists of “exploring the environment and acquiring knowledge through sensing and manipulating objects” the way a child figures the world out (2).

Most couples display this type of thinking in a way when interacting together by manipulating each other for either sexual pleasure or emotional highs. This way of manipulation can only lead to disappointment because both are temporary solutions to a constant problem: unquenchable satisfaction and purpose. This is why God created marriage and the ability to interact with Him on a relational basis. Humanity strives to be surrounded by others that fulfill their needs.

Today, the covenant and institution of marriage is changing so rapidly to fulfill the demands of everyone in society that eventually the original intentions for marriage will vanish. Where marriage once was about the sacred union between one man and one woman that was God ordained, today you could marry anyone for any reason. Humanity has forgotten why marriage exists in the first place: to reflect “the union of one man and one woman for life” that started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (3). God realized this predicament of Adam having no spouse and in that moment said “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (4). This is the origin of marriage and this is where anyone needs to start before thinking about beginning a marital relationship with someone else. But before someone should enter a marital relationship, here are five factors to consider.

The Biological Factor

This one is kind of easy to figure out. If you like someone, they will know. If someone likes you, you will know. Not to hard to figure out whether or not you like someone from a physical standpoint. This is also the first factor of the five that you may find out about one of your friends that you would like to pursue in a marital relationship, but nevertheless is still an essential factor to consider.

The Moral Factor

Does this person have morals? Are they morally upright? Marry someone who shares the worldview that you do. Where do morals come from? God. So marry a godly person and not someone ungodly. If you are a Christian, then by golly do not marry an Atheist! Go and marry someone with your worldview, not someone with views that collide with your own concerning the important stuff like “Who is Jesus?” or “What is the purpose of life?” Anyways, find someone aligned with what you believe.

King David once sang about the godly man in Psalm 1 where he said “Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the Law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (5). In life, your friends influence you and you influence your friends. So make sure that the friend that you pursue is a godly influence as you both walk together towards marriage. Whoever you begin to pursue, make sure they are someone who lives a life like the man from this psalm.

The Integrity Factor

Take into consideration who this person is on the inside, behind the masquerade that they may project when others are present. Who are they really when nobody is watching? These are questions you must contemplate to truly know what you are getting yourself into when you enter this marital relationship. Studies show that as couples grow old together they tend to become more and more like each other whether physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc. Is the person you pursue worth turning into as time goes on?

Several weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon from the pastor in my church’s high school youth group. While taking notes I suddenly heard a thought in my head that said, “when two trees grow next to each other, they either die or grow together.” Now this little thought had nothing to do with the teaching which really perplexed me and this thought suddenly pulled me right out of the sermon.

After the sermon was over I went to bed hours later still dwelling on this thought because it really did come from nowhere (i.e. it was Holy Spirit speaking internally to me). A day or two later after still thinking on this phrase, I finally went online, Googled the phrase, and came upon the scientific term called inosculation. In studies such as botany, bionomics, and dendrology, inosculation is a natural phenomenon where when two trees grow in a close proximity, they grow into each other either becoming one tree or killing each other.

Let me explain why this relates to marriage. This natural phenomenon is a great real life parallel of what happens over time when “two become one flesh” through marriage (6). A couple either becomes stronger together as “iron sharpens iron” or a couple ruins each other (7). With divorce rates always on the rise, the need to find someone of integrity should be a priority for things to look for in a future spouse.

The Spiritual Factor

This one is quite simple and does need much explanation. Find someone who is led by the Holy Spirit and knows the one true, triune God. Pursue someone who knows Jesus and has a relationship with Him. That person is worth the effort needed for a fulfilling marital relationship. I would rather marry a woman of character than the caricature of a woman. Sadly, most people settle for the caricature of a man or a woman because they either lack patience or the discernment to detect what a true man or a true woman really is in this world.

In order to find that special someone of interest, look for the directions found in the Bible and the breadcrumb clues that God leaves in the experiences within your friendships. When you find someone of interest, ask questions like: “Are they a passive believer or an active believer?” What may also help is setting up a standard as to what you want in a good partner. This may be anything like if a certain denomination is important to you or if no denomination is important to you, for example. One standard you may hold is that they have to be actively in the ministry and not just a CEO Christian (Christmas, Easter, & Other Holidays). The point is that you need to find the friend that will point you back to God and not themselves, which can be one of the highest expressions of love.

The Social Factor

What are they like in social settings when they are interacting in society? What are they like at church, work, school, and so on? Are they the same or do they change into someone else to hide who they really are because they fear scrutiny or judgment from others? These are the types of questions that should cross your mind as you seek the person you will one day wed in the future.

If you do not plan to marry the person you want to pursue then go home, turn off all the lights, light a candle, sit in a corner, and rethink your life. If the end goal of the relationship is not for marriage, then why the pineapple are you in a relationship?! Sex? Companionship? Social status? These things are temporary and do not sustain a long lasting relationship which are also not the point of one either.

The point of a marital relationship is becoming one flesh (the fun part) and to reflect the love that God has for the church (the serious part). Plus there is the part where you may want to raise children. Is the person you want to pursue the same person you want to raise a family with in the future after you get married? Society thrives because of the lessons from a previous generation passed onto the children of a new generation. Raising godly children is the key to sustaining culture, family heritage, and society as a whole. Just another thing to think about before getting into a relationship.

Once these five factors have been acknowledged and a consistent amount of prayer has been given by both people in the potential marital relationship, only then should someone move forward into a marital relationship because they have the necessary foundation to begin pursuing a marital relationship. Prayer is key because if God says no, then for goodness sake do not go! Since God is the necessary being that keeps everything going and created everything, His say in who you marry matters. If God tells you yes to pursue someone, then pursue them. The point is just listen to what God has to say to you first.

Another necessity needed before pursuing a marital relationship with someone is to be friends beforehand. This is probably the easiest thing to understand and something that I have already mentioned at least a few times, but is constantly underutilized. I have seen many people get into a relationship that does not work out simply because there was no friendship to start. Put simply, be friends then become “best friends with benefits” within the context of marriage.

Remember, this is your relationship with your special someone whoever it may be in the future. There is no outline on how to do this crazy thing called marriage. Some of the greatest couples learn the good stuff from going through the really bad stuff, only to find it was all worth it because the journey brought them closer to each other. The best advice I can give is twofold: a) start from the Bible; branch outwards from there concerning truth on relationships and b) go talk to old people that have been married for decades. Old married people know their stuff on how to have a fulfilling marriage. So when in doubt on how to enter a relationship, just remember: the Bible and old people. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Inosculation
  2. Hockenbury & Hockenbury, Discovering Psychology
  3. www.gotquestions.org – What is the definition of marriage?
  4. NASB Genesis 2:18
  5. NKJV Psalm 1:1-2
  6. HCSB Genesis 2:24
  7. NASB Proverbs 27:17
  8. Disclaimer