“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4)
We talk a lot about authenticity in filmmaking and storytelling. Sometimes that seems to be a code word for rejecting any kind of Biblical content standards so that our stories are “authentic.” But it leaves me to wonder- authentically what? Authentically Christian, or authentically worldly?
If, for example, we make a rugged gangster movie or a brutal Afghanistan combat sequence without any swearing, are we failing to be authentic to the world, or are we simply being authentic to the commands of Christ- and which is more important?
It’s more important to present a holy Jesus to the world than to try to minimize the distinction that Scripture makes so clearly; obviously not meaning that there shouldn’t be sin and conflict in our films, but that our films should apply the same Biblical standards of conduct that we would apply to our lives. “I wouldn’t blaspheme God in real life; I shouldn’t do it in a movie either.” “I wouldn’t wear something that skimpy in real life; I shouldn’t wear it in front of a camera either.” And the list goes on.
This is notably different from saying that our films shouldn’t portray any sin at all- rather we as Christian filmmakers should not commit sin in the process. Our convictions don’t become magically negligible because we walked on set. I can pretend to be a murderous gangster without actually murdering or a drunkard without actually getting drunk. But I can’t pretend to swear. I can’t pretend to wear inappropriate clothing.
True relevance comes not from being like the world, but from being like Christ. If the world is not impressed with our lack of “authenticity,” then we can count ourselves blessed. The goal should be not to impress the world with our movies, but to show the world Jesus as He truly is. If we remove holiness from our productions, we damage our witness and become hypocritical, calling others to obey a Jesus we disobeyed in calling.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” (Matt. 5:11)