Many Christians are uncomfortable with sin being shown in “Christian films”. Hence, many Christian filmmakers avoid showing the darker side of our world to people because they believe showing sin cannot possibly bring glory to God. They believe Christian films should be distinctive from Hollywood and lift up only what is good, pure, holy and sacred.
The answer to whether or not Christian films should show sin is very important when we consider the effectiveness of Christian films and how they will speak to people, both seekers and believers.
Consider a good Christian testimony. What are we supposed to cover? Our life before Jesus, how we came into a personal relationship with God through Jesus, and how our life has been changed since. The reason this format works is it shows contrast. “I was lost and now I am found”.
Now consider Christian films. What happens when sin is removed and everything is nice and pure? The life is taken out of the film because the contrast is removed. Movies work because the characters are insightful reflections of ourselves, our conflicts and inner struggles. If Christian movies do not show sin or conflict, they will not speak well to the hearts of the people, neither seekers nor believers. Our movies, like our evangelists, must be honest that man is sinful. Only when we are honest about who man is can we show the truth and hope that is found in Jesus Christ and His Gospel message.
However, some are concerned God will not be pleased or glorified if we depict sin in our Christian films. They are concerned we will become exactly like the world - using sin for entertainment purposes. This, I believe, is what should be the big difference between Hollywood films and Christian films. Christian films should show sin, but never entertainment purposes or to tempt anyone. Rather, Christians should be even more honest about sin by showing it for what it is: a destructive, deceitful force that destroys people, marriages, families and our world. People’s hearts will resonate when we show sin for what it is due to the fact that even an unbeliever inherently knows he is in bondage and seeking to be set free. The power of a Christian film should be to show the answer to sin by demonstrating that Jesus came into this world, not just to save us from the penalty of sin, but also to give us power through the Holy Spirit to overcome the destructive power of sin in our lives.
This is not to say we should gloss over the fact that many Christians struggle deeply with sin even after they have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Again, being honest about the power of sin is important, even in the lives of believers. Only then can the deeper teachings of discipleship and growth in the power of the Holy Spirit be truly understood and appreciated.
Consider the following story and decide if you would feel comfortable seeing it in a Christian film. A prominent ministry leader finds himself beginning to lust after a married woman. He craves her and begins to obsess about having sex with her. The unthinkable happens. He secretly sleeps with her. He has now committed adultery. His world has turned upside down. He is a hypocrite, yet all that matters to him is to have this woman as his own. He begins to fantasize about how great it would be if her husband would die. He conceives a plot to have her husband killed in a way that would look like an accident. The murder is committed. He should be remorseful but all he can see is the woman he desires. She becomes his wife while he continues as a prominent ministry leader. The world is completely unaware, but God knows what this man done, and God will come after him...
This is a pretty raw story, yet I didn’t write it. It is the true story of King David and Bathsheba, written in the Bible. The holy God of the Universe was comfortable and pleased to write this account of David’s horrible sins in His Bible, one of God’s most prominent leaders. Why not just keep this secret between David and God? Why expose it to the whole world?
When I first became a believer and read the Bible, I came to believe the Bible was inspired by God, not man. There were all the usual reasons of fulfilled prophecies, consistency across 66 books written by 40 different authors over hundreds of years. But one further reason was the honesty of the Bible concerning the failings of its people, including its leaders like David, and Paul and Peter, etc. I saw in this honesty my own failings and sinfulness. Rather than taking away from God’s glory, His glory was enhanced because the more I knew myself, the more holy I saw God to be.
Our Christian films must be honest; more honest than Hollywood’s films. Let’s show sin for what it is and then let’s show the answer that God has provided for sin in Jesus Christ and through power of the Holy Spirit living within us. To God be the glory!
Joseph Bardwell is Chairman and President of In Jesus’ Name Productions.