There is a deeper discipleship of discernment that Christ is calling his followers to practice when it comes to patronizing the arts.
It is one that echoes what Paul says in his first letter to the Christians struggling with the ungodly culture of Corinth: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
In other words, we must be careful not to use our freedom to justify becoming bound by those aspects of the culture that tempt us to sin.
Jesus taught, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:15).
Jesus was not just simply talking about what we eat, but a deeper spiritual truth. He explained to his disciples, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
The reason for being careful about how we patronize the arts in popular culture is not primarily because of the evil in the art itself, but because of the evil that is already present in our hearts. Any defiling cultural ideas, beliefs, or values found in art do not have the power to warp our hearts and thus defile us. Rather, they can only tap into the evil that may already be there, tempting us to act out of that sinfulness.
The good news, however, is that hearts can be transformed. Hearts that are spiritually mature, that are being shaped by faith and an authentic reliance on the Holy Spirit, have the power not to be twisted in this way.
This is why Paul can tell us that some Christians can, with a clean conscience, take part in some activities while other Christians cannot. “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (Romans 14:2-4a).
Each Christian must realize that, in his or her own personal devotion to Christ, even though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial to their personal walk in Christ.