Describing the "Thing"
Sacred Spaces?

Whatever is Maudlin and Sentimental -- Think About Such Things?

One of the primary uses of Philippians 4:8 is is as a justification for Christians watching or reading only what is nice, heartwarming, safe, and comfortable.  It's all a matter of what parts of the verse you emphasize, though.  The verse says this:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever us noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things."

Lilhous2 It's a wonderful verse, really, because it's an injunction to think about the true, the good (or right), and the beautiful (lovely) -- objective truth (the really real), moral truth (the good and the bad), and aesthetic truth (the beautiful and the ugly), saying it another way.  Now, to those who think this means we all need to confine our viewing of TV to Touched by an Angel or Little House on the Prairie reruns, or reading sanitized Christian fiction, consider what happens when you apply this interpretation to the Book God wrote.

For example, try Judges 19 and 20.  It recounts a sordid tale of a Levite and his concubine staying overnight in Gibeah, where a group of men demand that the Levite be brought out to them so they can have sex with him.  He gives them his mistress, and after they gang rape and beat her through the night, she dies.  The Levite takes her home, cuts her body into twelve pieces, and sends them to the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel as a visible and gruesome demonstration of the depth of depravity in the land.  In the horrific violence that ensues, thousands die and Gibeah is destroyed by fire.  Hey, I didn't write it! Think about such things? This might get an X rating even nowadays.  It's not for the kids, folks.

This is not an isolated passage.  The Bible is brutally honest and graphic in recounting the wickedness and evil of a people who had forgotten God.  It is also very honest in dealing with sexual matters.  For example, until I was in college, no one would talk to me about the Song of Solomon.  (Me: "Hey Mom, what's this right here mean when he says 'Your two breasts are like two fawns'?"  Mom: "WHAT are you reading?"  Me: "The Bible." Mom: "Well, read something else, why don't you?")  Think about such things.

Trioang Rather than read Philippians 4:8 as a limitation on cultural and artistic engagement, it should be read as a positive encouragement to engage the culture in a discerning way.  Part of this is confronting the reality of our fallenness.  And that's not a pretty sight, but it is a true fact that we need to think on and feel deeply in order to understand the world we live in.  Of course, we also want to explore the good and the beautiful, and it's difficult to set absolutes here, to draw lines.  For example, there is much good and beautiful in Touched By An Angel and Little House on the Prairie but (lest I commit sacrilege) there is also falsehood.  For example, growing up on the frontier was, by all accounts, much more difficult than portrayed on Little House, and the God we get in Touched is a bit too safe for the one we know from Scripture.  The point:  Paul commends discernment, not abandonment, of culture.  And there's the big issue: How are we to be discerning?  How do we exercise good judgment?

Now, be careful out there.  But get out there.