If you’re a Christian on social media, or have Christians in your social media circles, chances are you’ve seen numerous articles shared in your feed addressing whether or not to see one or the other of two movies, reflecting the opinions of the writers and sharers.
I’ve been asked to share my own opinion on whether or not Christians should see either of these movies, and here’s the thing: I can’t tell you. It’s not my place. You have so much freedom in Christ, and it’s up to you and God to prayerfully determine whether or not seeing either or both of these movies is the best exercise of your freedom to pursue “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) and to “serve one another humbly and in love” (Galatians 5:13).
I can, however, speak to a larger trend plaguing Christendom: telling each other what and what not to do. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we love telling each other what and what not to do. We love it even more when people ask us what they should and shouldn’t do.
I’m not one of those Christians who will walk up to you and tell you directly what I think without being asked, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used my social media platform to more subtly share opinions on matters about which I have not been asked. (I figure, that way, at least, people can take it or leave it, and I still get to say what I think.) And, having been asked about whether or not Christians should see these two movies multiple times in the past couple of weeks, and, having many thoughts about what’s being presented by both and the intricacies of following Jesus… well, it’s a definite challenge to say, “Look, I can’t tell you. It’s not my place. You should pray about it.”
So much Christian discourse is wrapped up in shoulds and should-nots that I can’t help but think we’re muddying the waters, but Jesus is the Light and brings clarity. Adding my shoulds and should-nots to the list, which can be personal at best and arbitrary at worst, may end up destroying someone else’s God-given peace about a decision or bringing turmoil to someone who already can’t decide. Pointing people to Jesus and letting Him shed light on His good pleasure in their lives is the best thing anyone can do for anyone.
I love Paul’s discourse to early Christians who wanted to know what they should and should not eat in Romans 14 (a hot-button issue in his day), but was especially convicted by this: “[Whatever] you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Romans 14:22 NIV). Our obsession with platform as a society has seeped into the American Church. We want to be seen, heard, respected, and emulated. If someone is not doing something we would do, or doing something we would not do, we correct them out of a genuine sense that our way is best. We have dismissed the value of leading quiet lives, minding our own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11). We have forgotten that God works in His Church individually and together – that each Christian has an individual role, albeit in an eternal and universal purpose (1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 4). We acknowledge God nominally, but severely underestimate His ability to work in and change lives, while grossly overestimating our own (Philippians 2:13). We’re kind of bullies.
And here’s how God feels about that: “As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? … Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another” (Ezekiel 34:17-19, 21-22 NIV). We have trampled and muddied with constant opining, and if we have robbed someone of God-given righteousness, joy, and peace regarding a decision they’ve made to do or not do something, if we have encouraged someone to do or not do something out of self-centeredness rather than out of humble and loving service, we will be judged.
See, the reality is there are things that you may be free to do that I am not, even in Christ. There may be things you can freely enjoy that my relationship with Christ and my relationships with other people simply cannot sustain. And vice versa. It all depends on where we are following Jesus – and I’m not just speaking about levels of maturity (though that’s certainly pertinent), but where Jesus has called us to follow.
So it’s probably best for God to tell people what to do – you know, since He is God – and for us not to tell people what to do – you know, since we’re not.