I was sitting with my family on a dock looking out at a beautiful vista when my sister’s tattoo caught my grandmother’s attention. She’s very traditional and opposes tattoos of any kind, but this one looked different, so she inquired about it.
The tattoo was the Deathly Hallows symbol from Harry Potter on a watercolor background. My sister explained what it was and immediately my grandmother’s face scrunched up like she’d smelled spoiled milk. “Well, I can’t understand why someone would want to watch witchcraft like that, let alone mark it on their body.”
Instantly my heart broke for my sister. She already has a hard time fitting in, so I mentally donned my superhero cape before asking, “Grandma, how do you feel about The Wizard of Oz?”
Her eyes grew wide. “Oz isn’t a real place,” she tried to counter.
“Neither is Hogwarts, Grandma,” I replied with a soft smile.Is a choice of entertainment beneficial to you? Is it costing you your integrity or opening you up to something that could cause you harm? If we are going to ask our people to trust us to make our own decisions, we have to trust that they are speaking out of love too.
I live right below the Bible Belt, so there are certain “heresies” in our pulpits, and church members take a hold of those and make them lightning rod issues. But if they were honest, there are plenty of “heresies” in all sources of entertainment.
A heresy is typically defined as a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine. For my example, actual witchcraft (especially the glorification of it) goes against orthodox Christian doctrine and practice. Several of the Marvel series and movies acknowledge other cultures’ gods (Egyptian gods in Moon Knight most recently). What about video games that involve “killing?” Murder is most definitely contrary to orthodoxy. It seems silly to list these, and the list could go on, but if we’re honest, people can take great offense to finding enjoyment in disconnecting from reality for a little bit. Does that mean we have to limit ourselves by only ingesting strictly Christian media? I don’t think so. So how do we interact with each other if something we enjoy offends a brother or sister in Christ? If we want to protect the relationship then we have to approach the problem with honesty and consideration. Here are three steps to help you get there.
Step 1: Check your heart
Before we begin to build our defense, we have to see if we have a plank in our own eye. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 19:7, NLT). There is a distinct possibility that we may be indulging in something we don’t need to. We may have excused something that isn’t good for us because we like it.
Paul writes, “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor. 10:23, NLT). Is a choice of entertainment beneficial to you? Is it costing you your integrity or opening you up to something that could cause you harm? If we are going to ask our people to trust us to make our own decisions, we have to trust that they are speaking out of love too.
If they’re right, we can thank them for pulling us back. If their concern is valid but their reasoning doesn’t line up, we need to seek understanding. In the example I gave earlier, if in our discussion I realized that I was wrong in how I viewed the use of magic in Harry Potter, I would humbly accept that truth and thank my grandmother for bringing it to my attention. I would rather be corrected and grow from it rather than be allowed to continue in ignorance. However, I didn’t think I was in the wrong, so I tried to better explain my position. This brings us to …
Step 2: Relieve tension with gentle truth
My grandmother had been told that Harry Potter was causing kids to take up witchcraft. However, pointing out that one of her favorite movies also contained good and bad witches helped her to see from a different point of view. It also helped that my sister was clear on her stance of enjoying a work of literature rather than conforming her life to a new teaching.
If our people don’t understand how we can enjoy something that doesn’t line up with their interpretation of Scripture, it’s good for us to try and build bridges of commonality. Besides, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.” (James 1:5, NLT) As you prepare to talk to your people, pray about how to share truth with them. Think about how your words will be received. If your words will sting, is there a more gentle way to speak that truth? Most of all, what is your intended outcome of the discussion? Our goal shouldn’t be to win the discussion, but to grow closer together.As a stronger believer we’re told not to partake in certain activities in their presence. […] Our freedom can’t be used as a weapon, but as a shield.
If you’re not sure where to begin, explain how enjoying worldly things doesn’t put a wholesale stamp of approval on every idea presented. After all, a work of fiction is just that: a work of fiction. It’s no different than the fairy tales we heard as children and tell to our own.
Seek to bring understanding, but know that it won’t always be welcome, we need to steel ourselves with the final step …
Step 3: Disclose your interest with discernment
There are certain people I’m never going to talk about Dungeons & Dragons with. Not because I’m ashamed of playing, but because they see it as satanic, when it is certainly not. Somewhere along the way, they read an article or saw a 60 Minutes episode about how Dungeons & Dragons was of the Devil, and no matter what I say, they won’t believe otherwise.
I’m not hiding this from them; I’ve already gone through step one and checked my heart on this issue and have considered step 2. Now I’m just protecting our relationship and not bringing it up. Paul discusses this topic all throughout 1 Corinthians 8. Weaker believers seem to have a stricter conscience, or a sense of legalism. As a stronger believer we’re told not to partake in certain activities in their presence. Verse 9 in particular states, “But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” Our freedom can’t be used as a weapon, but as a shield. Protect that brother or sister in Christ by finding others who will share in discussing how awesome the latest episode of Moon Knight was.
Are you ready to check your heart, relieve tension with gentle truth, and if necessary, keep your interest to yourself? None of these steps are easy but great relationships are worth the effort required. Sometimes you take two great steps forward only to realize that you need to start the process over again, or maybe the other party asks for more clarification weeks down the road after you thought a matter was settled. Don’t be afraid to share that you don’t have all the answers but you want to work together for the good of your relationship. The reason you shared your interest in the first place was to share something you loved with someone you cared about. Don’t forget that both of those things are a blessing worth appreciating.