In Ephesians 5:11 the apostle Paul tells the church, “…have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Does this justify Christian ministries who watch R-Rated movies in order to write reviews and help Christians make informed media choices? That’s exactly what some of the organizations involved in this practice would like us to think. This verse is often quoted in defense against those, like me, who question this popular practice.
Not only is that a foisted interpretation of that sacred text, a responsible understanding of its intended meaning could be seen as a reproof for the very practice in question. I’m convinced that it’s past time for Christian organizations who review movies to take a break from sending their reviewers to the theater. Instead, they should consider sending them for further training in inductive Bible study methods (see companion article on “Hermeneutics and Exegisis”).
“Have We Lost our Minds?” is an article published by Christianity Today in defense of reviewing and sometimes awarding “R-Rated and decidedly non-family-friendly-films.” Their supposed bulwark for this practice is their claim to be operating through a “biblical worldview.” I guess we have to take them at their word, right? Not so fast, a biblical worldview is not about taking them at their word but taking God at His Word.
In that article the author is found quoting Ephesians 5:11 to vindicate the appropriateness of reviewing R-Rated films for Christians. I would like to take another look at that verse in its proper context. In order to do that we need to start at verse 5.
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:5-7). One Bible version paraphrases that last part this way “So have nothing at all to do with such people.” In the next few verses Paul tells us why.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Vs. 8-10)
This reminds us that even though we used to live in the darkness of sinful behavior and disobedience to God we should now live in the light. Paul explains that walking in the light means living lives that are full of goodness, righteousness and truth through the Spirit of Christ who lives in us. All of that gives us the context for the verse in question…
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. ” Ephesians 5:11
“Have no fellowship” means “don’t share in company with” or “don’t co-participate”. That in itself would be a strong argument for not watching movies that portray the kinds of darkness which was described earlier. But what about the instruction to “expose them”?
We should start by recognizing what it doesn’t mean. It clearly does not mean participation or sharing company with them. It also does not mean speaking about these dark deeds done secretly. “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). If it is shameful to even speak of these things, why would we watch them or write reviews about them for Christians? How does watching an R-Rated movie expose the darkness to light?
So what does it mean to “expose them”? In the original language of the New Testemant it actually means “to reprove with conviction upon the offender” (Zhodhiates). That is why some Bible translations actually use the words “reprove them” instead of “expose them”. This obviously has nothing to do with exposing Christians to darkness by watching and reviewing R-Rated movies. On the contrary it is telling us to reprove “the unfruitful works of darkness”. That’s a lot different than watching the unfruitful works of darkness and writing about them.
Goodness, righteousness and truth in our lives should be a bright light which the world can see. Instead, many Christians have retreated to theaters because they are captivated by darkness in the form of R-Rated movies. The Scriptures warn “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20