wholesome thinking asked: Hello! what’s your opinion on listening to worldly music by non-Christian artists? Also what do you think about watching TV, not bad shows with sex and bleeped out swear words, but other more child friendly stuff? I’m struggling with knowing if it’s OK for me to watch and listen to worldly things or if God wants me to be completely cut off from it. Please help!
Unka Glen answered: Well, if you go out and dig a hole in your backyard and climb down in it, you’re going to be perfectly protected from outside temptations, but you’re also going to be completely unable to serve the Kingdom in any way. In the end, there’s a balance between putting yourself around too much temptation, and digging a hole in your backyard. You’re looking for that balance point.
In my early twenties I started working in prison ministry, and I spent all day locked up and surrounded by people who were about as rough and raunchy as you can imagine. Then I would hear preachers working in cushy suburban churches preaching about the evils of watching crime show violence and cussing on TV, and I’m thinking, I’m spending all day hanging out and ministering to real criminals, so how is that supposed to work?
Anyway, Paul thankfully addresses this whole situation directly:
1 Corinthians 5:9-11 “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”
These verses seem to be suggesting that it’s better to associate with the world and be a witness to it, and to understand its ways, than to be a party to anything that claims to be Christian, but has a worldly purpose in mind. Thus, we strive to be in the world, but not of it. But you’re talking about “Christian alternatives” that allow you to be of the world but not in it.
For sure it makes sense to minimize a certain amount of worldly negativity (beyond a certain point, it just becomes redundant and draining anyway), but if you’ve been walking with the Lord for awhile, and a curse word or a song lyric causes you to backslide, you need to talk with your pastor or mentor, because there’s a major structural flaw somewhere in your walk.
Otherwise, try, I beg you, try to ignore people who want to manipulate you through fear. Live as free people. Galatians 5:13 says “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
The Holy Spirit will guide you in your day to day life. There will be a day when you’re already hurting, and you know this music will just get you wallowing deeper in self-pity. There are certain days when a sexual lyric will get your mind racing. There are times when a certain scene comes on the TV, and it’s just time to change the channel. The Holy Spirit will give you that little nudge. There is no legalistic rule that can substitute for that leading.
Recently, on my way to doing some ministry deep in a gang controlled neighborhood, I was playing some music to get myself pumped up a little, and the AC/DC song “Highway to Hell” came pounding out of my iPod at full volume. And I was reminded of that quote by the famous missionary, Charles Studd: “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.”