I love to act. I've done so most of my life. There's something captivating about it: the creativity, trying to see the world from another perspective, the camaraderie.
Yet for almost as long I have felt uneasy about acting. I was uncertain whether acting is an appropriate activity for a Christian. Is it all about people adoring me? Is it OK to be doing things you'd never dream of doing offstage? Isn't acting essentially all about lying?
Over time I've vacillated between thinking one way or another, either acting is good and just do whatever, or it's wrong, taking place in an incurably sinful environment.
However, I think one must think harder and more deeply about the question of how a Christian might engage with the pastime or profession of acting.
The importance of being earnest
Why think hard about what you do with your time? Because Jesus is Lord of all things. Jesus is Lord of your family life, your workplace, your Internet time. He is also Lord of your entertainment and leisure time. From buying a house to breaking an egg, Jesus is in control, and deserves our worship.
To God be the glory
Theatre is not wholly good or bad, and neither is cinema. Like most things, there are admirable aspects that can be used to please God. Yet most of the time these media are used to please people, people who may have a very different idea of good to God's view.
It's true that a lot of films are saturated in sex, violence and vanity. It's also true that lots of thespians, directors and playwrights are interested in strange and unnerving ideas.
There may be self-destructive and indulgent lifestyles associated with these worlds but that doesn't make films or plays inherently bad.
God has given us the gift of performing arts, an excellent way to tell stories and communicate ideas, ask questions and explore different perspectives. When you enter a theatre you enter another world: a world of new ideas and people you'd maybe never meet unless you encountered them on a screen or a stage.
God has allowed this form of communication to exist in His creation, and we must figure out how to use it to His glory.
A character shaped by Jesus
As an actor and sometime director, I see lots of potential in the performing arts. And as a Christian I want to use it for God's glory. How can I do that?
I can say no to being part of stories that go against God's gospel agenda. I can choose to stay away from films and shows that I know will deceive or perpetuate ideas that are unbiblical.
Of course one can't avoid everything. But we can weigh up whether this script will glorify evil actions or simply portray them, or if this story is asking questions or prompting discussion.
I can be a catalyst for Christian theatre and film. I can write scripts or direct, I can choose to tell stories that will put Jesus on the agenda.
Do I have to have an all Christian cast? Not necessarily (isn't it a great thing to spend time with a non-Christian who's willing to engage?). Is a Christian play one set in a world where everyone is good? Not before Christ's kingdom comes: we must acknowledge sin if we are going to make truthful theatre. But we mustn't be defeated by it either.
Is Christian film all about finding a way to include a full gospel presentation? Not always. Sometimes it's best to create discussion or let that conversation happen later. Sometimes it's best to be more subtle and introduce gospel concepts more slowly. Especially in our current culture where people don't have the ideological or experiential backgrounds that may lead to Billy Graham type results.
Finally, in the face of drunkenness and debauchery, I can choose to interact on my own terms. I can choose to host a dinner party rather than a drinking night. I can create alternative spaces to interact with these people God has put in my life, in order to please God in my involvement with the creative arts.
Christians need to hold strong to the gospel. We need to hold on to what is right and seek to live in purity, glorifying God as he utterly deserves.
We need to engage with those captive to sin. We need to infiltrate every section of society and declare God's freedom to people deceived by Satan.
Jesus is Lord of everything, and we need to continue to consider how we can bring every aspect of our live into submission to Him.
Matthew Joils is a student at the University of Canterbury. He is involved in the Christian Union on Campus. He enjoys writing, publishing on his blog: www.matthewjoils.wordpress.com
Matthew Joils' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/matthew-joils.html