R-Rated Movies — Yes or No?
Now and then you’ll come across well-intentioned preachers who sternly denounce R-rated movies (and even PG-13 and PG movies) and they’ll proceed to heap condo on those who view them. The exception, of course, is The Passion of the Christ, which shows that the issue isn’t as black and white as they put forth. It also proves that not all R-rated films are moral filth, even though they may have scenes depicting various fleshly behaviors and extreme violence.
It should be noted that these same preachers encourage their listeners to regularly read/study the Bible—God’s Word—and the more the better. With this in mind, an obvious question is raised: Are there any stories in the Bible that are heavily R-rated? Absolutely! David’s lust for the bathing Bathsheba and his subsequent adultery and murder of Uriah is a prime example. Here are some more: David chopping off Goliath’s head and parading it around as a trophy; Lot’s daughters’ incestuous actions; the mass slaughter of infants; whole cities being put to the sword, including women and children; the shocking global bloodshed in Revelation; the naked demoniac; the witch of Endor; Judah having sex with his daughter-in-law who was posing as a prostitute; etcetera, etcetera.
What about the Song of Songs? It’s a beautifully poetic book, but what is it rated? Give it a fresh read and be honest.
All this shows that God’s Word obviously doesn’t whitewash human nature but rather honestly bares it with all its potential glory or shame. The Bible isn’t the “Good Book” because it Disney-fies the human experience, but because it’s brutally honest about it and provides the God-given answers for our most important dilemmas. Of course someone could argue that these hardcore Bible stories include moral themes or lessons, but so does the R-rated 3:10 to Yuma remake, which is a story of redemption with a Christ-figure. This isn’t to suggest that I’m encouraging people to view this movie because I’m not. If I remember correctly, there was some cussing in it, which would understandably turn-off a lot of potential Christian viewers. But don’t people cuss in real life? Heck, you’ll hear people cuss while you’re standing in line at the Dairy Queen. Is it wrong for movies to reflect real life in their stories and messages? When movies depict real-life events or like-real-life events should they whitewash them or depict the truth? What’s more important to you—viewing a story the way it really is or viewing a censored version because you don’t want to hear certain words that you consider profane or see scenes you find objectionable? Or maybe you don’t mind movies conveying events the way it really is, but you don’t want certain family members to be exposed to objectionable material, like your tykes.
It’s your responsibility to consider these issues, honestly seek the LORD, and make up your own mind for each possible situation. Notice what Paul instructed:
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
(13) Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (14) I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. (15) If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. (16) Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. (17) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (18) because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
(19) Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (20) Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. (21) It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
(22) So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (23) But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
The main issue here was eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. While Paul argued that it was not wrong for a believer to do this because an idol “is nothing at all in the world,” he pointed out that not all believers have this knowledge and they therefore have “weak consciences” (1 Corinthians 8:4-8). So he instructed strong believers — i.e. mature believers — who know their rights and freedoms in Christ to be careful about the exercising of their rights around believers who have weak consciences because they would view the act in question as a sin—even though it’s not—and this would wound them, whether by provoking them to do something they think is a sin or by simply seeing a brother or sister engaging in what they perceive to be sin (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).
While the main issue in Romans 14 was eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul related the matter to other things, like eating meat as opposed to being a vegetarian:
One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. (3) The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. (4) Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
He also related the matter to those who regard certain days as special—holidays—and those who view every day as the same:
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. (6) Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Paul then relates the matter to drinking alcohol and any number of issues:
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
This would include things that exist today in our culture that didn’t exist in Paul’s culture of the first century or that simply weren’t an issue back then. This would include watching R-rated movies.
On that note, not all films are moral trash and believers should have the freedom to seek out ones that are worthwhile to them for whatever reason while adhering to the principle “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, make it a top priority to guard what you allow to be rooted in your heart by being careful of what your eyes see, your ears hear and the atmosphere you allow, which includes the company you keep. As the Bible says: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). All these items are factors in determining what will be rooted and stored-up in your heart. Notice what the Lord said about this:
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
While you have rights and freedoms in Christ you must be careful to not allow bad things to get rooted in your heart because, if you do, you’ll produce accordingly. Strive to store-up good treasure in your heart. Amen?
Paul closed the matter with this thought:
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
A Closing Word about Movies, their Purpose and Place in Our Culture
For better or worse, we live in a video-oriented age and movies are an important staple in our culture. Movies are the modern-day campfire tales of centuries past. They’re a regular topic at the coffee station or vending area at work. Why? Because they entertain, amuse, inspire and mentor. Generally speaking, they provide the mythology that helps the modern world cope with reality.
Of course, they can also be corrupt, which is why some Christians write them off as generally ungodly garbage to be avoided. This is fine and should be respected. An alternative position is this: It’s beneficial for Christian witnesses to be in tune with their culture and locate where people are; and then meet them there. Being up on movies and other elements of pop culture will help you with this principle. Just keep in mind what the Bible says:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV)
In other words, be careful to not to become shackled to the thing you’re convinced you have the freedom to practice, like viewing movies. As the proverb goes: “Everything in moderation,” meaning do nothing in excess. Too much of anything is bad.
For more on the importance of guarding your heart see this article.
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