Entertainment and Arts

What to Consider Before Watching a Film

By: Russ Matthews

The team at Reel Dialogue goes to see most films; some are less edifying than others. Yet, we still have to put our choices through a filter.

Our team understands that as film critics, there are movies that we see that many may not desire to see. Even within this business, we must determine the line between what we might or not see. For some, it is merely a matter of conscience. Still, for others, the line can be determined by something outside of ourselves.

If you have read our reviews, it is easy to guess that a few films are not preferred watching. Yet, this topic opens the door to a critical discussion, and we must consider what the Bible says.

This is not to spoil anyone’s fun or love of film, but it is a discussion to challenge people to think deeper about the movie they should attend.

Most of the content is based on an article by Brett McCracken’s book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty (Baker, 2013).

Here are the six questions that I take into consideration before going to see a film.

1. What Does the Bible Say About Discernment?

Romans 14: 1-4,13-15
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

2. What is Your Weakness? What is Too Far For You?

We all have different issues that cause us to sin. There are obvious things that should be considered by all, but people need to understand what is ‘too far’. For me (Russ), I cannot go to films with excessive nudity/sex, but for others, it might be other areas. While horror films may be easier for some people to watch, they aren’t my favourite.

3. What are the Weaknesses in Your Community?

Watching a film is usually a community experience. Is it worthwhile considering what others might have issues with before taking them to the cinema? What are the problems of those you go with to the cinema?

4. Is it Beneficial?

This question is not hard for some, because film may not be your priority. For those who love film, like our team, it is worth considering if the time would be better spent doing other things.

5. Has the Filmmaker Earned the Right?

Due to some objectionable material, not all MA15 (R-US) rated films are bad. Like the Bible, the story sometimes contains things that allow the artistic benefit to outweigh the rough content. There can be a purpose for the potentially objectionable material.

Examples include Passion of the Christ, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Gladiator, Schindler’s List, and Hacksaw Ridge.

6. It Might be Worth Praying About It

“Everything that is debatable or questionable must be taken first to prayer.”
Rebecca-McSparren from LA Film Studies Centre

This may be the last thing you should do before seeing a film, but it should be the first thing you do.

You might ask: Isn’t that a lot to consider before watching a movie? Doesn’t that take the fun out of it all? That is not my goal, but let us ask you something else.

Is it better to think about these things before going to the cinemas instead of not going through these steps and having to walk out due to the content of a film or apologising to someone for taking them to this film? On the other side of the discussion, these steps could allow you to see a great movie.

Honestly, some films have no appeal to us. We do not need to see some movies to know that it contains content that we want to avoid. But, people must learn to discern for themselves, in choosing film and how they live.


Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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