Q. I've noticed that several popular reality TV shows include contestants who claim to be Christians. But they don't seem to hesitate to compromise their faith when the rules of the game call for it. I don't understand how they reconcile the difference between what they say and what they do.
—Lauren Hembree, Knoxville, Tennessee
A. Many of today's reality shows are all about greed—the lengths to which people will go to achieve fame and fortune. The shows usually are built on dishonesty and deception. They encourage contestants to manipulate, humiliate, and rip each other to shreds. They invite immorality of every kind. There is no excuse for Christians to engage in this kind of behavior.
So how can people who call themselves Christians willingly participate in those types of reality shows? I guess it's possible that some truly believe they can be a light in the darkness. But if somehow, in between all the lying and cheating and backstabbing, any of these believers have managed to share the gospel—well, it's never made it past the cutting room floor. Even if they did, as pompous and petulant as they alternately appear, it's hard to imagine it would have much impact. The decision to compete in these shows may reveal a lack of Christian maturity or a lapse in judgment. Or perhaps the Christian contestants honestly didn't realize what they were getting into.
Jesus said, "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit … by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matt. 7:15-20). In that context, Jesus was talking about using spiritual discernment to determine whether or not a person is a false prophet—a wolf in sheep's clothing. This practice is critical when we consider elevating anyone to a position of authority—making them our teachers, leaders, or role models. In Galatians 5:22, the apostle Paul gave us an idea of the kind of fruit we should be looking for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These qualities seem conspicuously absent in the lives of most reality-show contestants. (I guess the fruit of the Spirit doesn't make for good "Must-See TV.") But to be fair, when it comes to evaluating the authenticity of a contestant's faith, we really don't have enough information. We don't see the whole picture. We don't know what is in their hearts.
And frankly, if camera crews were to follow you and me around for a couple of weeks, they might capture a few moments that would give others cause to question our salvation—or at least the depth of our commitment to Christ. That's why we need to remember something else Jesus said: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged … Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:1-5). Each one of us is responsible to God for our own behavior.
Ultimately, if the premise of a reality show flies in the face of everything we believe in, we don't need to tune in week after week to see if we can determine whether one of the contestants is really a Christian. We need to change the channel.
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (Crossway) and Take It to Heart: 60 Meditations on God and His Word (Crossway).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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