The much debated and anticipated 50 Shades of Grey comes on February 13—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I admit, I’m very tempted here to get snarky and make comments that would undoubtedly be seen as belittling and insulting to fans of the book. I haven’t read it and I want to tread lightly and respectfully, but I also confess up front a great indignation that rises up in me at the very idea of it—of what I know of the story, of anything that promotes BDSM as romance, much less love, of the people who will flock to see it either unaware or not caring about what they are putting into their minds and souls…. But then, I am humbled when I remember some of the things I put into my mind and soul that I readily justify and I know that I don’t want to be the one casting stones.
It’s a slippery slope trying to discern the boundaries for what we abstain from and what we enjoy (in every area of life, not just our entertainment). I don’t want to editorialize on where I think your boundaries ought to lie (there are plenty of people who have already done so!), but I do want to point to God’s standard of holiness and ask myself as I urge you to ask yourself, “How does God want me to apply this to my life?” I’d also like to provide you with some links to several articles about 50 Shades of Grey that I found interesting. You may not agree with their perspective, but I think they are good food for thought. And if you are debating whether or not to see this one, maybe these perspectives (paired with these verses about God’s standards of holiness) will help you make a more informed decision—one that takes into account not simply whether or not you can see it, but also whether or not you should see it, whether or not it is good for you (your mind and soul), whether or not it is actually beneficial.
Let’s start with Psalm 101. This one kicks me in the butt every time I read it. It reminds me that the standards I ought to be striving for are so much higher than where I am content to live. I tend to be happy I’ve avoided the big wrongs… the Psalmist isn’t just aiming to not do bad…he’s aiming for perfection and holiness in a beautiful way. Not just aiming for it, actually—he’s committing to it, resolving to it. This applies to pretty much every area of life, but let’s think here about how it may apply to the kinds of entertainment we let into our lives/houses/minds.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life— when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. (ESV: I will walk with integrity of heart within my house) 3 I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. (ESV: I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.)
I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. 4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. (Psalm 101: 2-4)
I was working at a Christian camp and someone asked what we, as staff, should say if someone asked us, “How far is too far?” As people began to debate how to answer, I’ll never forget, one of the staff wisely said, “It’s the wrong question. The question should be, ‘How far do I flee?’” “How far is too far?”, or in this case, “How much can I see?” are the wrong questions. They reveal a heart that is more concerned with not getting into trouble than with pursuing holiness. When our hearts are seeking God’s, we aren’t asking for permission, we are asking for Him to make our hearts like His. We are asking Him to reveal His heart to us so we can get in line with it. We want to know how HE would feel about it and if we even suspect it might not please God, we are eager to keep away from it…because we LOVE Him. We get into trouble when we ask how close we can get to the line without going over it. We need to be asking how close we can get to God’s heart, not the line. As Matt Chandler famously said, “What are the things which stir your affections for Jesus, and what are the things that rob you of them?” (If I may editorialize a little here, I strongly suspect that 50 Shades of Grey falls into the “robs you of them” category…for just about everyone.)
What else does scripture say that might apply, though? Let’s look at a few more… and if you’re like me and 50 Shades of Grey is out of the question anyway, don’t just assume you’re good and tune out. This isn’t the time to crucify those who love Grey. It’s a time for all of us to ask God to examine our hearts and show us any offensive or wicked way, as the Psalmist did…because we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. (Ephesians 5:3-13)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
I could go on. In fact, pretty much every book in the Bible has something to say along these lines. The Bible is extremely serious about purity, in our actions and in our thoughts. Not even a HINT of sexual immorality. No obscenity. No coarse joking. These things “wage war against your soul”. This is serious language. And if I’m honest with myself, and with you, I don’t really want to think about what those verses are actually saying about the things I watch…the things I’m “OK” with. I would like to go on judging others who watch worse stuff than I do, feeling good about myself for being holier than they…but if I judge them by this standard, frankly, I stand condemned as well, because the standard is HOLINESS, PERFECTION, not just “better than”. And I’ve grown calloused to a certain level.
I don’t know the answer here. We live in the world…yet we are told not to be of it. What does that really look like? Do I have to boycott ALL entertainment, and stop hanging out with all my non-Christian friends and even most my Christian friends because they fall into course joking from time to time (and that’s me being generous…some are more all the time, sadly)? I certainly don’t think that’s the right response, but I am hard pressed to define what IS the right response. Prayerful obedience. That’s the horribly vague answer. We are each accountable to God for our own pursuit of holiness and our obedience to His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading.
We are in a culture where sexual immorality is increasingly commonplace and we have all grown accustomed to it, in some degree or another. It’s good for us to be cautious about going the “next level” (i.e. watching Grey would be another “level” for me…exposing me to something I haven’t been exposed to and don’t need to be) but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t evaluate whether or not our current level is acceptable in the first place.
I don’t want to say that we shouldn’t be willing to speak up, even to be outraged—Jesus certainly spoke out against what was wrong, outraged, and angered others by doing so—but I do want to say that we ought to make sure that if we are offending people in our outrage that it’s the truth that they are stumbling upon, and not us (our mannerisms). I’m also suggesting that while I’m firmly holding my opinions about Grey, I probably ought to be reassessing my own comfort levels against the Biblical standards.
When Jesus spoke about removing the plank from your own eye, understand that the intent was that both the speck and the plank would be removed, from both your eye and your brother’s.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
He didn’t say not to remove your brother’s speck…just that you could do so better when your own eye was clear. So let us be neither cowards nor bludgeons, but humble surgeons, deftly removing obstacles from our own lives as well as others in accordance with God’s will that we may follow Him unobstructed, holy, pure.
That being said, here are some worthwhile articles which each present a different perspective of caution in regards to 50 Shades of Grey.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reNlqsMGb7M&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DreNlqsMGb7M&has_verified=1 (Late addition – video focusing on how we can use Grey as a tool…worth a listen)
- https://www.lifesitenews.com/static/the-real-reason-50-shades-is-so-wildly-popular-hint-its-not-the-sex.html (This was fabulous! It explains the origins of the story, it’s connection to Twilight and how it points to a deeper need that we are all longing for, one Christ answers perfectly.)
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7)
And, for posterity’s sake, I am including an excerpt from this article which will give you a few more Biblical references that apply:
What does God say about…
Our minds and the things that go into them?
o Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5
o Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
o Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things. Phil 4:8
o Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:2
Our Freedom in Christ
o “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Rom 14:1-4
o “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. I Cor 6:12
How should we respond to those who choose differently?
o Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone. John 8:7
o All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Phil 3:15-16
o Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Eph 4:3
o You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat… then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Rom 14:10-13
o Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Rom 14:19
Light vs. Darkness:
o So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however,…were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Eph 4:17-24
o But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. … For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. Eph 5:3-12
One Final Consideration: Motive
As you think through God’s word in response to any number of cultural dilemmas you face, a great question to ask yourself is “WHY?” Why do I want to do X or not do X? What is my motive for my actions? Sometimes a person’s motives for abstaining from a certain activities are just as unspiritual as another’s motives for participating. The truth is, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov 14:12), so we cannot fully trust our own judgment and reason to guide us through the murky waters. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Certainly it is not just his deeds, but the heart and mind behind those deeds which concern the Lord. In light of this, it is a great thing to ask the Lord, as the Psalmist did, to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24). Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas, Texas area, often asks the question, “Does the issue at hand stir your affections for Christ Jesus, or rob you of them?” How greatly might our lives be changed if we truly lived in light of that simple question?
The good news is, for those who would like to engage the culture, but don’t feel they should watch the movie, you don’t have to watch a movie in order to use it to reach out to others! Here are a few ideas of how to use a movie as a tool for God’s Kingdom, without actually watching it.
1. Ask questions! Let the other person do the talking and learn from them. Why did they like it or not? Would they recommend it? If they were more like the main characters, would they be a better or worse person? Why? The movie isn’t what you really want to discuss anyway, you want to know how to use the movie to transition to a discussion of the bigger issues. And, if you feel ill-equipped, there are plenty of other sites and discussion boards, Christian and non-Christian alike which will give you a good basis for discussion without introducing all the visual images into your mind.
2. Be prepared to discuss why you chose not to see it. You may find your decision to be “set apart” will lead you into even more valuable discussions that the movie itself. A word of caution: do this in love and gentleness. Your attitude and mannerism as you discuss the movie will either impress people and draw them to Christ or be a complete turn off. While an ignorant and judgmental response will do damage, a well-informed, calculated decision that is full of grace for others who decide differently will prove winsome.
 Psalm 139:23-24