“Pastor Matthew, where do you draw the line?” This was a question recently asked of me on facebook. What is permissible and what is not, in regards to the new 50 Shades of Grey movie. And what is the difference between watching this movie and say, the vampire romance, Twilight?
Well, first off, if you need me to help make the distinction between a vampire love saga with made up mythical creatures falling in love and a war between them and werewolves, and a BDSM torture soft core porn movie, then I encourage you to watch neither of them.
With that said, I have watched neither of them. But watching them or not watching them is not what I am actually wanting to address.
What I want to address is, where do you draw the line?
When I opened Club Retro to hundreds of teens in the community--an all age’s music venue at a church--where bands of all sorts and styles (not just Christian, gasp!) came in weekly and played music, I had many people ask me that question: "Matthew, where do you draw the line?"
Sure, I am able to reach hundreds of teens a week through the music, but if we put a stripper pole in the middle of church, we could reach hundreds of other people as well; but where do you draw the line?
I actually think it is a valid question; it is the wrong question, but it is valid.
It is valid because we have been pre-conditioned and we have a predisposition to draw lines. Church, the Christian community, the religious hierarchy loves working with lines. We have loved telling people what they can and cannot do. First, it actually has nothing to do with righteousness or holiness, let’s make that clear.
Christ dealt with righteousness and holiness on the cross. If he did it, you can stop trying to do it.
Second, when we draw lines and make distinctions like what you can and cannot do, we are able to create separation. We are able to stand back and say I am better than you. Why?
Because I didn’t do this or that. I am more holy, or more righteous.
"Well Pastor Matthew, I want to be set apart from the world.”
Well, what sets you apart should not be based on what you do or don’t do, it should be based on who you know. That is why Christ came in the first place. So that we no longer had to sacrifice animals, so that we no longer had to go through form and function but so that we could have a relationship.
“So what, now I can do anything and it’s okay?"
Don’t you love when you are in conversation with people and it is always extremes? You cannot simply have reasonable conversation with some Christians without the only two options being the extreme extent of the scale.
The only two options are love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, which looks like this: never doing anything that we tell you not to do; or, go out and commit adultery.
Only two options.
Let me be perfectly honest with you.
When someone asks me where we draw the line, I always have a question for an answer.
Christ came and got rid of lines.
He tore down curtains and stopped drawing lines.
He said His gift is free.
His love is for everyone.
He loved the prostitute, the tax collector, the sinner and the thief. He preached in synagogues and with Pharisees and fisherman. No lines.
The Pharisees asked him for lines. He said no.
They said, "What are you doing with those people, loving those people? We have lines. Don’t cross those lines." And they hated Him for it.
The disciples asked him for lines. He said no.
They tried to keep the children from Him, the woman at the well from Him, and He said to bring the children to Him, for such is the kingdom of heaven.
I know, some of you are shaking your head; it still doesn’t add up. Why? Because your lines are different lines. Yeah, well they are still lines.
But let me help you some more in the line-drawing business.
I am married. Been married now for sixteen years, have three beautiful children and an amazing marriage.
When I married my wife, she did not give me a list of do’s and don'ts in our marriage.
In our covenant relationship, she did not say, "you are not allowed to sleep with other women."
Actually, and the painful reality is, she said for better or for worse.
Now, in no way am I advocating that what people should do or shouldn’t do in their marriage relationship or placing any guilt or shame.
What I am saying is, God says the same thing to us, for better or for worse--no conditions. His love is that big and His love will never fail. Nothing can separate you from that love.
Old Covenant had a list of rules in our relationship with God.
New covenant is like my marriage to my wife: Christ says, "I do," and He said it first!
He said I choose you, and we get to respond by choosing Him too.
So does that mean we can go out and do anything we want?
As much as I can go out and sleep around and my wife would be okay with it. Which means, NO!
The difference is, you don’t need lines when you have love.
I love my wife. I didn't need a list of rules to know what would break her heart; I am in love.
And that Love consumes me, it motivates me, it overwhelms me.
It is when we fall out of love that we have problems, that we need lines.
And that is the same in our relationship with Christ.
Instead of trying to make a list of rules, do’s and don’ts and the church trying to define what love is and what a marriage looks like, we should be lighting candles and creating an atmosphere that causes you to fall more and more in love with Christ.
When you are in love you don’t need lines.
So, in the end, the reality is, I am a Pastor, and as such I want to encourage, exhort, edify, direct and lead those that are in my fellowship. So allow me to use scripture to answer this question:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate, put your mind on these things.”
In conclusion, I have many friends who have been married a lot longer than I have, and their marriage looks differently than mine. I have come to realize that everyone has their own freaky version of marriage and romance and intimacy, and I am not the one to tell them what their love, their marriage should look like.
In Christ, you are going to have your own intimacy with Him and it is going to look different than mine. So should you watch 50 Shades of Grey, my answer is simple, let me point you back to Christ and encourage you to fall in love with Him, from there, I think you will figure it out.
Loving You All
Pastor Matthew Oliver
Matthew and Siobhan Oliver are the Senior Leaders at The Family Church in Roseville, Ca, and they have a huge heart for their community. They have three kids, own a business called House of Oliver, and are heavily involved in their community with sports, PTC, local nonprofits and charities. Matthew and Siobhan believe that church is more than just what goes on during a Sunday morning, but that church happens where life happens, so they are living life loudly.
Purchase Matthew Oliver's book, "Take Back The Night" here. To get in contact with Matthew, message him at pastormatthewoliver