A Prudent Man

Long ago, the Psalmist said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psalm 101.3). What are the effects of viewing immorality, sex, and violence? The following was written more than 1600 years ago by John Chrysostom (34-407), Patriarch of Constantinople (now Instanbul) in Turkey:

Wounded at the Theater

If you see a shameless woman in the theater, who treads the stage with uncovered head and bold attitudes dressed in garments adorned with gold, flaunting her soft sensuality, singing immoral songs, throwing her limbs about in the dance, and making shameless speeches…do you still dare to say nothing human happens to you then? Long after the theater is closed and everyone is gone away, those images still float before your soul - their words, their conduct, their glances, their walk, their positions, their excitation, their unchaste limbs - and as for you, you go home covered with a thousand wounds! But not alone - the shameless woman goes with you - although not openly and visible but in your heart, and in your conscience, and there within you she kindles the Babylonian furnace in which the peace of your home, the purity of your heart, and the happiness of your marriage will be burnt up.

Here are some other writings from the 1st and 2nd centuries on this matter:

Lactantius (260-330 AD)

I am inclined to think that the corrupting influence of the stage is even worse [than that of the arena]. The subjects of comedies are the deflowering of virgins or the loves of prostitutes…Similarly, the tragedies parade before the eyes [of the audience] the murder of parents and acts of incest committed by wicked kings…Is the art of the mimes any better? They teach adultery by acting it out. How do we expect our young people to respond when they see that these things are practiced without shame and that everyone eagerly watches? (Lactantius Institutes, bk. 6, chap. 20, paraphrased)

Tertullian (140-230 AD)

The father who carefully protects and guards his virgin daughter’s ears from every polluting word takes her to the theater himself, exposing her to all its vile language and attitudes. How can it be right to look at the things that are wrong to do? How can those things which defile a man when they go out of his mouth not defile him when going in through his eyes and ears (Matthew 15.17-20)? (Tertullian, The Shows, chaps. 21,17)

Lactantius (260-330 AD)

He who finds it pleasurable to watch a man being killed, even though the man has been legally condemned, pollutes his conscience just as much as though he were an accomplice or willing spectator of a murder committed in secret. Yet they call these “sprots” - where human blood is shed! When they see men placed under the stroke of death, begging for mercy, can they be righteous when they not only permit the men to be killed, but demand it? They cast their cruel and inhuman votes for death, not being satisfied by the mere flowing of blood or the presence of gashing wounds. In fact, they order the gladiators (although wounded and lying on the ground) to be attacked again and their corpses to be pummeled with blows, to make certain they are not merely feigning death. The crowds are even angry with the gladiators if one of the two isn’t slain quickly. As though they thirsted for human blood, they hate delays…By steeping themselves in this practice, they have lost their humanity…Therefore, it is not fitting that we who strive to stay on the path of righteousness should share in this public homicide. When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits the violence that is condemned in public laws, but he also forbids the violence that is deemed lawful by men.” (Lactantius Institutes, bk. 6, ch. 20, paraphrased)

Solomon said a prudent man “forseeth the evil, and hideth himself” (Proverbs 22.5). When it comes to viewing immorality, sex, and violence, which do we prefer: To see or foresee?

Freedom isn’t the right to do as you will, but the power to do as you should (Romans 6.18,22; Galatians 5.1; 1 Peter 2.16,24)! God’s grace did not appear to justify a disobedient faith, but to impute righteousness for an obedient faith (Romans 6.1-4). 

God’s grace has appeared to all men. However, if grace’s appearance saves, then all men would be saved. We know such is not the case. God’s grace brings salvation, as it teaches God’s word. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2.11-12).

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Grace’s appearance was for the purpose of teaching God’s will. The salvation by grace is through faith (Ephesians 2.8), but faith must be placed in God’s words (Romans 1.17). To put it another way, salvation depends upon whether the hearer obeys what is taught by God’s grace. The teaching by God’s grace is:

  • Deny ungodliness.
  • Deny world desires.
  • Live sensibly.
  • Live righteously.
  • Live godly.

These are not suggestions, but commands! Freedom from sin depends upon a faith that will obey the commands (Romans 1.5; 16.26). The apostle Peter put it this way: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2.24).