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.

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18 thoughts on “Not Even a Hint”

  1. Mark says:

    Kevin,
    Thank you for having the courage to say what few are saying today, and guarding us all against a seared conscience toward temptation and sin.

  2. DMP says:

    Is this a subtle jab at Brett McCracken’s new book “Grey Matters”?

  3. Paul Reed says:

    “the seminarians in the room—both men and women”

    women seminarians? If only someone in the room had picked up on that..

  4. T says:

    Thanks pastor Kevin! A much needed reminder & exhortation for me.

  5. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Not a jab at Brett’s latest. I thought he had some helpful things in the book, though we probably wouldn’t sit down to watch all the same movies.

  6. anaquaduck says:

    Yes, entertainments gift to you, the wooden horse of troy & the subtlety of Satan. There is some good stuff out there along with the emptiness…Rom 12:21

  7. Martin says:

    Paul, do you have a problem with women seminarians?

  8. Paul Reed says:

    >> But an older, respected stu­dent (not me!) called out the group. “Guys, they are talking about fornication and incest. It’s really not funny.”

    On another note, whenever somebody makes a ridiculous display of piety like this, I always make a mental note. Just wait, because it’s a matter of time. The said person gets caught up in some major personal or public scandal. Actually, this just recently happened to a guy in my ex-church who made a big deal out of watching Finding Nemo. He apparently thought to see an underage prostitute.

  9. Rick Austin says:

    I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
    I hate the work of those who fall away;
    It shall not fasten its grip on me.
    A perverse heart shall depart from me;
    I will know no evil. (Psalm 101:3-4 NASB)

    Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
    And revive me in Your way. (Psalm 119:37 NKJV)

    But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NASB)

    Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
    To practice deeds of wickedness
    With men who do iniquity;
    And do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:4 NASB)

    Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

    Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

    How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
    Nor stand in the path of sinners,
    Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
    But his delight is in the law of the Lord ,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
    He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
    Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither;
    And in whatever he does, he prospers.
    (Psalm 1:1-3 NASB)

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  11. Some call me Hatfield says:

    I’m reminded of a conversation with a friend several months ago when “Magic Mike” was out in theaters. She saw nothing wrong with going to see this on a “Girls Night Out” gathering with friends.

    It pained my wife and I, but we spoke against the film (not against our friend!) For a time, we didn’t talk much.

  12. karen says:

    Very well said. I especially like the comparison about what is ok to watch in real life vs. on a screen. I once heard a pastor say that he ‘needed’ to watch popular shows and movies so he knew what his congregation was exposed to; a matter of keeping up with the culture, I suppose. That didn’t seem right to me.

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  14. MK says:

    Paul R: are you a Lutheran, perhaps?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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