I couldn’t get on Facebook today (or this weekend, for that matter) without reading someone’s opinion on the new movie out this weekend – both positive and negative. I admit that I have not read the books or seen the movie, so I can’t comment on whether or not this movie is something that you should go to see. But as I read the arguments taking place among Christians, I noticed a lot of negativity, a lot of tension, and a lot of self-defense.
And I don’t believe it is honoring God at all.
It seems to me that any time new literature, new music, new movies, or new television shows are released, the Christian family finds a way to be in discord, taking away from glorifying Christ and instead seeking their own opinion. This is coming from both sides of the argument. The ones who opposed the movie are angry at the ones who supported the film. The ones who have read the books and looked forward to the movie’s release feel defensive that their fellow believers think so lowly of them. There is no winner, but there sure is a lot of bickering!
Legalism is alive and well, even if we want to claim that we’ve given up the harsh rules of our parents’ generation. But somehow many people have begun to think of legalism as being forced to wear skirts or only read the King James version of the Bible or only listen to old hymns. The truth is that legalism is starting to rear an even uglier – if more subtle head – of “reverse” legalism. Suddenly, if you don’t want to see the newest blockbuster in the theaters, you must be legalistic. Or if you don’t care for a particular Christian artist, you must be legalistic. Or if you prefer the King James version of the Bible to a newer version, you must be legalistic.
Have we so quickly forgotten that Christ warned us about going down the path that everyone has taken?
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” – Matthew 7:13
Legalism is forcing your beliefs and convictions onto someone else in place of the Gospel. It is making man’s law override God’s law. And it can be seen just as easily from those who claim to have been freed from oppressive rules as those who still live under the “old” rules!
Please don’t mistake what I am saying as a condemnation for those who went to see this week’s most popular movie or who find peace listening to the newest Christian artists! That is not my point at all!
What I am trying to point out is that the Spirit is the One who must work in each one of us to convict us about the things that are “true. . .noble. . .right. . .pure. . .lovely. . .admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). It is the Spirit’s responsibility to know our hearts because He “sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, (B)but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).
That is not to say that if we see obvious sin in someone’s life that we should not confront them about it. But there are certain things that will be presented to us in this life that will convict some and not bother others. This does not mean that the Spirit is moving in one person and not in the other! But it does mean that the Spirit convicts each of us about different things that will point us each, individually, to eternity!
For example, I belong to a book club with about seven other women from my church. We are reading a Christian book, but it is amazing that each and every single one of us brings some completely different thoughts to the discussion! Because of where I am in my spiritual walk this week, one phrase or paragraph will jump out to me that didn’t jump out at someone else who needed the Spirit to speak to them in a different way. And from what I can ascertain from our brief time together once a week, none of us are spiritually immature or new to our faith. So why doesn’t the Holy Spirit tell us all the same thing? Because we all need to hear something different! We are each unique!
When we feel strongly about a topic, it’s so easy to get on our high horse and to boast over our opinion, trying to force our convictions on everyone who will stop to listen (or even some who are running away with their hands over their ears!). I know I am guilty of being overly opinionated – especially when no one really cares to hear what I think! It’s a sin that I am constantly wrestling! But we need to be careful to not shout so loud that God can’t be heard because, unlike us, God doesn’t force Himself on anyone who doesn’t want Him.
“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” – I Kings 19:12
I know when controversial movies, books, songs, and other media are released, it’s easy to go to battle with each other – our convictions used as swords against those who don’t believe as we do. But we need to remember that these are our convictions. God didn’t say, “Thou shall not go to the movies,” but He also didn’t say, “Thou shall read and watch whatever you like in the name of Christian liberty.” Instead of seeking one another’s approval, we need to be searching the Scriptures and prayerfully asking God if the things we are putting before our eyes will glorify Him. And then we need to let Him convict each of us as He determines!
We each are responsible for answering to Him for our own actions, and I hope that He will tell me “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with [the second greatest commandment, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ – Mk. 12:31] ; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).