When I moved away from home in September for school, the hardest thing for me to adjust to was how terribly quiet my new house was. I started watching a lot of Netflix in the evenings, mostly just as background noise. I was a sucker for any romantic comedy I could get my hands on, and I absolutely loved Friends. I had my favourite couples. My favourite scenes. My favourite lines. I would come home and put a show on and immerse myself in the little world of whatever I was watching.
Around the same time, I noticed a bit of a change in my own relationship. Watching shows all the time where the characters had no consequences for sleeping around, or where they had dreamy fairy tale relationships, there was a shift in the way I thought. I was starting to wonder if our boundaries were really as big of a deal as we had made them. I was becoming discontent when our relationship didn’t measure up to the picture perfect ones on tv. By the grace of God, I noticed these toxic ways of thinking before they ever became big issues. But I knew that I needed to stop watching these shows and start making smarter choices with how I was filling my mind so they wouldn’t keep coming back.
I was thinking about this one evening recently while trying to find something to watch. We live in a culture where Netflix is a prominent fixture in almost everyone’s lives, and that isn’t always a good thing. It’s hard to find a show these days where the characters aren’t having premarital sex, or where the way the relationships play out isn’t totally unrealistic. Which begs the question – how is what we’re watching affecting our relationships? What does Christian dating look like in a Netflix saturated culture? I want to explore two aspects – our expectations and our purity.
First of all, one of the dangers that the shows we watch can have on our relationships is that they give us false hopes for how certain things will play out. I’ve talked to girls who told me their first kiss was disappointing, or their first date wasn’t what they hoped, or they thought that their proposal would have been a little more extravagant.
It’s not surprising, when you think of how we’ve been raised on Disney films where everyone lives happily ever after and chick flicks where the girl always gets the guy in the end and everything works out perfectly. They’re filled with magical, perfect, dreamy scenarios. Although most of us know that Hollywood isn’t real, and its usually not our intention to become dissatisfied over these things, it still happens. What we fill our minds with can breed discontentment if we expect our own relationships to be the same. It can plant doubts in our minds, and place pressure on our partners to meet an ideal that they can never live up to.
But the biggest challenge that what we watch has on our dating relationships is in the realm of our purity.
A common misconception a lot of people have these days is that purity = virginity. But it is so much more than just choosing not to sleep with someone before marriage. Purity is a posture of our hearts and our minds as well, not just the actions of our bodies. It is something that God requires of us if we call ourselves Christians. (1 Thess. 4:3-5, Phil. 1:9-11)
You know how if you watch enough of a cooking show, you begin to crave whatever they’re making, or it makes you hungry? Shows filled with sexual content work the same way on our hearts. They desensitize us to the harm and consequences, they weaken our ability to maintain boundaries.
I truly believe that the enemy uses media as a way to sneak in to our lives and destroy what God has intended for good. You might say, “I wouldn’t actually do the things that the characters on my favourite shows do.” – But through watching that all the time, aren’t you training your mind to see those things as “not so bad’? There’s a passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about how our eyes are like the lamp of our body – if what we look at honours God, it will fill the rest of us with light. But if we are looking at things that celebrate darkness, that’s what will fill the rest of our being. (6:22-23)
With each innuendo, each reference, each immodestly dressed character, our purity is being threatened. And this isn’t a realm we should take lightly. We need to guard our hearts through each thing we do. (Prov 4:23)
And if you are reading this during a season of singleness, keep in mind that it is so much easier to take control of your purity before you are in a relationship. If you are already relaxed with what you fill your mind with before you start dating someone, then you are forming habits for when you are in a relationship. If you want to take your purity seriously, then that needs to begin while you are still single.
We need to realize that God’s command for purity is not meant to punish us or keep us from something enjoyable, but that it is there to protect us from the pain that comes with sex outside of the parameters it was created for. Sex within marriage is a beautiful gift from God, but outside of that context it is destructive. God wants us to be able to enjoy that gift with our future spouses, and if what we are watching threatens our purity, then it needs to go.
I challenge you to evaluate the shows that you enjoy – do they demonstrate healthy dating relationships? Do they promote the biblical design for marriage? I promise you that even if pursuing purity means giving up your favourite shows, it will all be so worth it in the end.