Today I want to teach on a word that seems to be sorely lacking in the Christian walk. Discernment.
When it comes to making decisions we basically use two facets of our God given faculties; the thinking part and the feeling part. Generally we refer to these as the head and the heart.
A person who is all head and no heart makes intelligent choices, but they are about as personally intriguing as a slug. Head without heart decisions come across cold, perhaps even selfish. They generally lack empathy. Head statements are extremely factual, but they come across as bazookas to the souls of people who actually have a heart.
The alternative extreme is heart with no head. Here I give you a range of characters from the daredevil to the hopeless romantic. I know it is hard to think of Romeo and Evel Kenievel as being closely related, but on either side of the scale, heart people usually end up with lots of broken things or perhaps even emotionally dead. Heart decisions are not very smart ones, but they felt great. It seems SO right, but there is little investigation of the facts or thought of the consequences.
Enter discernment. Discernment is the wondrous merger of these decision making faculties. Discernment is allowing something to play the strings of your heart, but then stepping away to think about it before you make a judgment call. Discernment is the ability to see the facts, but to think about a way to phrase things so that the Romeos in the room are not left breathless, flopping around in the floor at your statement.
Add to discernment the Bible and we have an even more powerful equation, Biblical discernment. Biblical discernment is to do what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 and “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” I challenged my readers to exercise this capacity when it came to the recent backlash over the movie Noah. I was intrigued by much of the Christian community protest of the film, so I asked a simple question, “How Biblical are your other movies?”
Case in point, here we are with A Fault in Our Stars and as an onlooker I am seeing also a fault in our discernment. It seems that we are throwing our heart into this film, but leaving our heads, and most importantly our Bibles, behind.
I have not seen the film, but from the previews I can pretty much give you the plot. Two terminally ill teenagers fall in love in the last days of their lives. As they struggle with the idea of fate and the question of “why” love trumps all and I’m sure sex is a major part of the equation. Right?
Admittedly, in seeing the preview I too was intrigued that this is a film with an interesting premise. Will I watch it? Probably not. There is an element that seems to rise above traditional chick flick that is interesting to me, but I do tend to enjoy a little more muscle in my movies.
Whether or not I see the film, I can tell you something I will not be doing. I will not be taking my daughters to see it (at least not without some serious conversation for which I need to be majorly, Biblically prepared). I certainly will not be uncritically celebrating it. Why? 1) Because I am a Christian parent and 2) because it is what I thought it was. It is a film that has some redemptive ideas, but in the end is a distortion of Biblical truth (what we believe) and Biblical ethics (how we behave).
If you are not familiar with this tool, allow me to introduce you to a valuable one. It is PluggedIn.com. It is a movie review site offered by Focus on the Family. Before I take anyone in my family to a movie, myself, my wife, or my daughters, to PluggedIn.com first we will go. The site offers a fair review of films with solid Biblical discernment - head, heart, and Bible in hand. Each review is broken down into the succinct categories, Positive Elements, Spiritual Content, Sexual Content, Violent Content, Crude or Profane Language, Drug and Alcohol Content, Other Negative Elements, and then a very insightful, Biblically discerning Conclusion.
Here are the concluding remarks from PluggedIn’s review of Fault in Our Stars. Notice the involvement of the head, the heart, and the Bible.
"You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world," Hazel says. "but you do get to choose who hurts you." That's a strangely powerful statement, I think.
Sadly, one fault Hazel and Gus share is that they don't always make the wisest of choices. They sleep together. And they prefer to see themselves as pawns of the stars, not beloved by those stars' Creator.
This isn't an anti-Christian film, exactly—just spiritually uncertain. Nor is it saturated in sex or depravity. This isn't a bad movie, really. In many ways, it's quite good.
But here's the thing: Because it is quite good—a persuasive, emotional story with strong, positive messages about sacrifice, hard truths and true love—the bad stuff can come off as more persuasive than usual. It's harder to see a loving God yourself when the characters you grow to care about can't, or won't. It's harder to object to premarital sex while weepily watching Hazel and Gus—teens who might never get the chance to ever have sex again—get so much pleasure and fulfillment from it.
The Fault in Our Stars is, I suppose, a little like its title. For all its sparkly power, it has scratches and splits. We know immediately when a movie like Noah drifts away from its moorings. But it's hard to see a film with crystal-clear eyes when you're always dabbing them with a Kleenex.
Do you see it? I see here a film that reaches for the head, but finds no satisfactory answers and then goes straight for the heart. According to what I have seen of the response to the film, mission accomplished.
OK preacher, it's just a movie. Am I advocating some sort of stale, legalism that will eventually lead us to trash every movie except for the ones a church in south Georgia makes? Will we have to hand over every Christian Oscar to Kirk Cameron? I am certainly not condoning sanctified stupidity, but I am trying to slow the cart on the uncritical celebration by God’s people of something that appears to be at odds with the ethics of Biblical faith.
If thirty-somethings don’t discern the message in this film, what do you think our 13 year old daughters glean as a take away? Let’s face it, sex feels really, really good. Is it true then that if we cannot reconcile the stars that it's game on? What if the “stars” are not cancer at your home, but a boyfriend you can’t stand? What if it is dad’s rule that his kids don’t date? What if your baby finds “true love” (which is ironic in that “true” is a total head word) but you, the parent is screwing up the alignment of the stars?
Here is the truth (head). At its core, the film seems to say that the Biblical ethic of sex doesn't work in the real world of disappointing variables. For a Christian parent, this poses a serious problem for the Biblically based message we teach and model for our children.
We need to be careful. If we use our heart at movies but suddenly find that we need our head at home, the result is catastrophic. What if one day we awaken and try to lead our children down discerning paths when there has been no prior precedent of head, heart, and Bible? We may end up less like Christ and more like Romeo on a moral motorcycle attempting to jump Snake River Canyon. When you do try to enforce a Biblical ethic in your home, your children will see the hypocrisy of it and reject your lead. As believers we do not advocate situational ethics, but Biblical ones - in every situation. We take every thought, even the hopelessly romantic ones on film, captive to Christ.
Use your head, your heart, and your Bible. Think!