Discerning what is helpful for others and their walk with God

In James’ post, “Judging Pop Culture Consistently”, he addresses some very pertinent points for Christians living.

For the record I thought the way James addressed this potentially alienating topic was very balanced and insightful… well done brother!

As blogs will hopefully do for our readers, it got me thinking about my convictions and thoughts on the matter. A passage which came to mind was 1_Cor 10:23-33.

Here Paul talks about all things being lawful, but not all things are helpful, or not all things build us up in our faith. He goes on to say that we are not to seek our own good but the good of our neighbours in the hope of helping them to see the gospel at work in us and be saved by Christ. At the same time Paul talks about our freedom to be driven by our conscience and to discern what is helpful to others. There are some things that may not compromise or hinder our walk with God, yet with others this may not be the case.

Clearly there is an issue of conscience in such matters. As a result there is a subjective element to it. However, discerning what is beneficial to others based on our conscience can become very cloudy given  that our consciences’ are numbed to some degree by this sinful world and our own sinful nature.

For the record, I am a bit of a science-geek. For example, I enjoy Star Wars. I thought the Lord of the Rings was arguably one of the best trilogies ever filmed. For me, watching Star Wars doesn’t draw me to Buddhism. I see it for what it is… a fictional movie that engages my imagination and sense of adventure. For some Christians and people in general, this may not be the case.

Lord of the Rings is a great movie for many reasons – action, drama, inspiration, brotherhood, teamwork, the fight against good and evil. Some Christians in particular may not like it because of the ‘graphic violence’. It may make them feel uneasy and understandably, they decide not to watch it. However, in my opinion, to make a blanket statement that it’s not ok for anyone to watch is overstepping the mark. The Bible itself has highly violent content. Do we not read this? I think where a lot of movies overstep the line is when they start to glorify the violence and not present it in a constructive context for the film’s story. Once again though, we all may have differing ideas of where this ‘line’ is.

The point I am trying to make here is that we must be careful not to impose a judgement that is based more on what we do and don’t enjoy as opposed to what is unhelpful in our relationship with God. Just because you may not like science-fiction and fantasy/adventure movies, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong for others to watch. The key question must always be asked ‘is it helpful in building up, or does it compromise our walk with God?’ We must be careful not to allow ourselves to enjoy things that God clearly doesn’t approve of. It would be wise to stay clear of things that fuel our sinful desires and avoid much from which this world get’s entertainment. This can be very difficult in this confusing and seductive world, but we must strive to do so nevertheless.

Clearly this is a very tough topic, and I am not sure whether I have articulated myself clearly or not. However, before judging other’s viewpoints, let’s first look at ourselves to discern what we are doing is right. We must be careful to make sure we make judgements based on our sincere spiritual concern of others through biblical understanding and not simply on our own preferences in how we like to spend our spare time. It’s easy to point the finger at someone for their love of certain movies if you don’t care for watching movies much. I guarantee there will be areas where we all will be humbled when judged against what God expects of us.

Finally lets strive to be discerning how we engage with those around us. Some we will approach in a certain way and others in a different way so that we can seek to build them up rather than tear down their faith. We do this by first finding some common ground and building friendships. God willing, through those trusted friendships, they see the gospel at work in our lives and draw closer to what Jesus has to offer to them as well.

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