Hello Mr. Hamilton,
I am struggling with a lot right now, but I don't want to leave you with a massive email. I realize this is still a lot, but, some help would begin to clear things up. I realize a lot of this may just be a matter of personal faith, but any hard biblical evidence would be helpful especially if I encounter someone else struggling with similar problems.
A big problem I am having is with worldly media (movies, music, books, video games, and such.) and their consequences. A guess a place to start would be cursing. A lot of stuff being put out there has cursing in it and I don't know where to draw the line. One thing I wonder is what if there is only a little bit of it? Would I be supporting sin by interacting with media that has any amount of it whatsoever, especially with the knowledge that it is there? I know it isn't good to fill your head with such words.
What if the meaning of whatever is being presented isn't totally right? For example, a song that I like the sound of has to do with envy, what I get from the lyrics is that envy isn't good; however, some of the lyrics are some things that a person in envy would say that in and of themselves don't indicate that it is wrong.
What if I just want to listen to a song for the sound but the lyrics are not right at all?
Certain sounds seem to evoke certain emotional responses or thoughts. I grew up listening to metal and rock. Are the sounds that typically go with those inherently wrong because of the responses they typically bring?
When it comes to the stories being told they will often have sins being presented in them. Because the Bible tells of sin coming about I know that it isn't necessarily wrong to interact with media where such things happen. But since a lot of media comes from the world, sin isn't always presented as wrong, so what if not everything presented is resolved in a righteous manner?
A lot of role-playing games present you with moral choices as part of the gameplay and storytelling. Would it be wrong to choose the immoral choice to see how it plays out? Do choices in video games even matter because the consequences of such are kept in the game? Relating to what I just asked, role-playing games typically come with items. What if I, in the game, chose an immoral action to obtain an item in order to maximize the gameplay experience? I certainly have done that in the past but I don't know for sure if it is wrong.
What if the media has poorly dressed characters or describes sex scenes? Recently I did two things relating to that. I just subscribed to a role-playing game, but it was before I discovered that some of the characters in the game world were not dressed properly. Must I stop playing the game because of this? Or can I simply avoid those characters as I become aware of them? Or can I do those parts so long as I control my thoughts? That would also be relevant to movies as well.
As part of a class assignment, we were asked to read a book and each one the teacher let us choose from had a sex scene in them. I read the book called the Art of Racing in the Rain and it described some sex and a little bit of what it looked like. I think I lusted at the time but is it always wrong to read such things? Can I still do the writing part of the assignment regarding that book?
Continuing on with what I know I have messed up with, there are several pieces of media that I have enjoyed that I knew or am now convinced are not right for me to be interacting with, which often involve other people. I am quite certain that these things are wrong because of the prevalence of concepts I know are wrong being presented in them. I am tempted to continue on with these things and have failed in resisting at times, especially around friends who are worldly.
I often spend time with worldly friends in hopes of influencing them for the better, but I have let them influence me for the worse. It seems that I was being arrogant. But they got me into a few things that are fun, but are wrong, and there have been times where I initiated such activities with them. So as I understand it by initiating such activities with them I have influenced them for the worse. What should I do now?
A particular thing I am struggling with is this funny YouTube series that my friends and I like to make references to for humor. I try to only reference the parts that seemed appropriate, but that tends to bring the inappropriate parts to their mind. I am quite sure that it is wrong to watch it now but referencing it is something I have a harder time with. Also, I think I have invited people to activities that I am not totally sure about, like the role-playing game with the poorly dressed characters.
Summary of Questions:
I have been struggling with worldly media, much of which I am not sure what to do with and some of which I know is wrong. I will now attempt to restate my questions in an organized manner. Some new questions may also be introduced.
What should I do with media that has a small amount of sin presented that isn't resolved in a righteous manner, but most of what is presented are okay? Examples, some cussing, some bad concepts presented as good. Am I necessarily supporting sin by interacting with such media, especially if I pay for it?
Can the kinds of sounds in music be wrong because of the responses we typically give or what we typically associate with them? Can I morally listen to a song because I like the sound even if the lyrics are not right?
Regarding video games:
Is there a problem, within the realm of the game world, with choosing something immoral to see how it plays out or to get something that would enhance gameplay? Do moral choices even matter in a video game because the consequences are kept within the game world?
Regarding sexual imagery:
If there is any sexual imagery in a piece of media should it be avoided no matter what or can you interact with the media if you control yourself?
What should I do if my actions influence others for the worse? Should my response be handled differently between non-believers and believers? What if the person I influenced has authority over me?
Can I still morally complete my school assignment since I sinned with the reading part of it? May I send you some links that contain information about or even a video of some specific pieces of media that I have questions about? Answers to specifics would help better solidify my understanding or better express what I have been dealing with.
These are just some symptoms of a larger problem I have been dealing with, I think that problem is related to fear and stress, but some help would begin to clear things up, and I don't want to place too much on you.
If I can summarize all your questions, they revolve around the topic of influence -- both the influence the world has on us and the influence we have on others.
As you noted, the world can influence us.
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalms 1:1-2).
Who you hang around with and what you spend your time thinking about influences your behavior.
"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).
"Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25).
"Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits"" (I Corinthians 15:33).
People are beginning to understand this. For example, a study by the RAND Corp., back in 2004 found, "Teenagers who watch a lot of television with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in intercourse than those who watch few such programs ... The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior." ["Teen sex linked to racy TV programs", Reuters, 07 September 2004].
Christians have to be aware that exposure to sin will eat at their resolution to not sin. Some exposure in this wicked world cannot be avoided, but we can take steps to minimize it. Let's take language as an example. I can't stop the fact that people around me will utter curse words, but I can choose not to watch things that have cursing in them, I can choose not to read a book that contains profanity. If there is just a few bad spots in a book, I can skip over those and probably not lose track of the story. Skipping is not so easily done with movies unless you have something like ClearPlay or TV Guardian to edit the films for you.
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:21-23).
The problem with things that we purchase is that we have the tendency to tell ourselves, "Well, I paid for it, so I can't let the money go to waste." However, this is a lie. If what we bought turns out to be bad for us, continued use doesn't somehow make it better.
It isn't profitable to try to find a line where this much is acceptable and that much is no good. When you identify a problem, the best solution is to avoid it as much as possible. "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). The idea that exposure to sin won't affect you or that you can resist is false. It does affect you and lowers your resistance.
In regards to your school assignment, the best thing to do is when you realize there is a sex scene coming up in a book is just skip to the end of the chapter. Most of the time, the sex scenes don't contribute to the story. They are only there to sell books. Of course, it is too late now for the book that you've already read, but when you write about it, there should be plenty of things to discuss without dwelling on the sex scene. If I'm right that it really had nothing to do with the story, you can make that point that it was an add-on that didn't contribute to the value of the book or that it degraded the point the author was trying to make.
A Christian's duty is to influence the world for good. "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain" (Philippians 2:14-16). We are also to be good examples to fellow Christians. "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (I Timothy 4:12).
When you fail and encourage others to sin, there isn't anything you can do to take it back. The best that you can do is change so that it is no longer a part of who you are. "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:11).