The Bible is full of rank immorality. It would be simplistic and morally untenable—even unbiblical—to suggest you cannot watch sin or read about sin without sinning yourself. But the Bible never titillates with its description of sin. It never paints vice with virtue’s colors. It does not entertain with evil (unless to mock it). The Bible does not dull the conscience by making sin look normal and righteousness look strange. And there are no pictures of plunging necklines.
It’s one thing to describe evil or even depict it. I’d never suggest that good writing or film making must avoid the subject of sin. There are many thoughtful, tasteful movies, television shows, plays, musicals, and books out there—and the good ones usually deal with sin. Sin by itself is not the problem. The Bible is full of rank immorality. It would be simplistic and morally untenable—even unbiblical—to suggest you cannot watch sin or read about sin without sinning yourself. But the Bible never titillates with its description of sin. It never paints vice with virtue’s colors. It does not entertain with evil (unless to mock it). The Bible does not dull the conscience by making sin look normal and righteousness look strange. And there are no pictures of plunging necklines.
We have to take a hard look at the things we choose to put in front of our faces. If there was a couple engaged in sexual activity on a couch in front of you, would you pull up a seat to watch? No, that would be perverse, voyeuristic. So why is it different when people recorded it first and then you watch? What if a good-looking guy or girl, barely dressed, came up to you on the beach and said, “Why don’t you sit on your towel right here and stare at me for awhile?” Would you do it? No, that would be creepy. Why is it acceptable, then, when the same images are blown up the size of a three-story building?
If we’re honest, we often seek exposure to sexual immorality and temptations to impurity and call it “innocent” relaxation. Commenting on Ephesians 5:3, Peter O’Brien observes that, as Christians, we should not only shun all forms of sexual immorality, we should “avoid thinking and talking about them.” Even our jesting should be pure, lest we show “a dirty mind expressing itself in vulgar conversation.” If, as O’Brien remarks, “talking and thinking about sexual sins ‘creates an atmosphere in which they are tolerated and which can . . . promote their practice,’” how can we justify paying money to see, taste, and laugh at sexual sin? How can we stare at sensuality which aims to amuse and arouse and weaken our conscience and deaden our sense of spiritual things (even if it is on ordinary cable or only rated PG-13)? We must consider the possibility that much of what churchgoing people do to unwind would not pass muster for the apostle Paul. Not to mention God.
I remember one night in seminary a bunch of us got together to watch the third Indiana Jones movie, the one about the Holy Grail. If you’ve seen it you may remember that, in this installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fights the bad guys with his father (Sean Connery). At one point in the film there is a surprising line from the senior Dr. Jones which reveals that he and his son had just slept with the same Nazi woman. It’s meant to be a funny scene, and most of the seminarians in the room—both men and women—laughed out loud. But an older, respected student (not me!) called out the group. “Guys, they are talking about fornication and incest. It’s really not funny.” I think most of the people in the room were annoyed with such sermonizing. But the more I’ve thought about that incident over the years, the more I think the older man was right. A man and his father fornicating with the same woman? This kind of immorality was not tolerated even among the pagans in Paul’s day (1 Cor. 5:1). He told the Corinthians to mourn over it (v. 2). But we laugh.
Brothers and sisters, we must be more vigilant. With our kids, with our families, with our Facebook accounts, with our texts, with our tweets, with our own eyes and hearts. Are we any different than the culture? Have we made a false peace with ourselves whereby we have said, we won’t do the things you do or be as sensual as you are, but we will gladly watch you do them for us? The kinds of things Paul wouldn’t even mention, the sort of sins he wouldn’t dare joke about, the behaviors too shameful to even name—we hear about them in almost every sitcom and see them on screens bigger than our homes. Here is worldliness as much as anywhere in the Christian life. Try turning off the television and staying away from the movies for a month and see what new things you see when you come back. I fear many of us have become numb to the poison we are drinking. When it comes to sexual immorality, sin looks normal, righteousness looks very strange, and we look a lot like everybody else.
This post is excerpted from Chapter 8 (“Saints and Sexual Immorality”) of The Hole in our Holiness.
Kevin DeYoung has been the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan since 2004. Kevin blogs at the Gospel Coalition; this article is reprinted with his permission.