Wisdom in choosing shows and acting performances
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be imitators of God and take on Jesus’ righteous character. When we take on a role in a play, a movie, or a theatre show, we may unwittingly imitate ungodly behaviour and characters without realising the implications on our relationship with God. Not only do we fail to display the fruit of our salvation, we also glorify Satan and help push the devil’s agenda.
Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Philippians 1:11 NLT For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Acting’s pagan beginnings
Stage and movie acting and singing may be regarded as mainstream entertainment today, but their origins can be traced back to ancient pagan rituals and ceremonies.
Greek theatre, for example, began with rituals to honour Dionysus, the god of nature and fertility which included animal sacrifices on altars, accompanied by music from an orchestra. The earliest Chinese theatre were musicals performed by ornately dressed shamans who called on spirits to come down to earth. In ancient Egypt, worshippers would perform the story of their god, Osiris, every year.
The Bible makes it clear that such sacrificial performances were made to demons, not to God.
1 Corinthians 10:14,20-22 ESV Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry… No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Similar performances still exist today which honour various pagan gods, festivals, harvest time, the seasons, the dead, and so forth, except that they are often labelled as “cultural,” rather than spiritual. As a result, they appeal to a wider (and unperceiving) audience, not only amongst locals but tourists as well.
Exercising wisdom in what we watch and listen to
Story-telling through acting is a powerful medium as it gives us an opportunity to visualise and enter into another person’s experiences and emotions. This is also how we can become yoked to whatever we watch or listen to as we become engaged in the storyline. The devil knows this and will use visual story-telling to “teach” many his ways, just as Jesus taught His disciples how to live righteously through the use of numerous parables.
Here is a quick look at some common themes and the subliminal (and ungodly) messages conveyed in many secular stories.
Ungodly messages and godly truths
|Psychological thrillers, mystery||
Also, see Lies we believe from horror stories
As we can see, we may not even realise the subliminal but corrupting messages and thoughts we are passively absorbing by what we watch or listen to. As believers, we must exercise godly wisdom to discern the devil’s tactics and “reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil,” if we wish to live a life that is blameless before God and not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 101:2-4 NLT I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.
Here are a few principles on discerning what to avoid watching or taking part in:
- Theme: What is the main focus or angle of the script? Does the storyline glorify God or evil/Satan? | 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Characters: Do the characters portrayed imitate good or evil? | 3 John 1:11 ESV Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
- Language: Does the script contain language that dishonours God? | |Ephesians 5:4 ESV Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
- Impact on our thoughts: Does it leave us thinking about things that are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable – or are we left feeling fearful, discouraged, indignant, vengeful, greedy, daydreaming, sexually aroused etc.? | Philippians 4:8 ESV Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Based on these principles, we see that there are very few acting performances today that would please God. Yet millions of people numb themselves to such realities by indiscriminate or binge watching titillating reality television shows, soap operas, movies, theatre plays, video clips and so forth.
The Bible warns us that we need to be careful how we walk in this life, wisely rather than foolishly, because the times we live are evil rather than good. The road to God’s Kingdom is narrow and difficult, and few ever find it. On the other hand, the “highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”
Ephesians 5:16-17 ESV Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Matthew 7:13-14 NLT “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
In fact, Jesus warned us to tear our eyes out if they cause us to fall into sin and end up in hell as a result. This is a strongly-worded warning from our Lord and Saviour that we should probably not take lightly.
Matthew 18:9 ESV And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Keeping our eyes open before we accept acting opportunities
The four principles outlined above, regarding discerning the theme, characters, language and thoughts behind the plot in a story will also help us discern what acting roles we accept, if we are ever presented with such opportunities; whether in school plays, office events, or professionally.
Our bodies belong to Jesus, who purchased us with His own blood, and we now have the privilege to glorify God in gratitude.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
We are to wisely determine what scripts and character roles please God and what “worthless deeds of evil and darkness” we should not take part in. Furthermore, if we act out ungodly behaviour and cause someone else to fall into sin, we need to keep in mind that God will hold us accountable for judgment.
Ephesians 5:10-11 NLT Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.
Matthew 18:6-7 ESV … whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
As believers, we are called to be transformed more and more into Jesus’ image rather than in the image of mere human beings or idols. In that sense, we all have a part to play in God’s greater story of history. May the storyline of our lives bring God glory and much rejoicing for all eternity.
To witness how Satan can gain a foothold in us through something as innocuous as acting in school plays, see these two testimonies:
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