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“Shades” is just one more iteration of the culture’s desire to be satisfied outside of God. A long time ago a naked man and a naked woman walked away from God (Genesis 3:6). Their shift from God to what they wanted unwittingly created another culture—a culture that promoted a “to each his own” worldview.
Without divine moorings, the naked man and the naked woman walked from their holy garden into the darkness of unremitting dysfunction. Their confusion about God, humanity, and life was complete. We call it total depravity, which includes how they thought about sex and sexuality.
Instead of returning to God to solve their problems, they decided they wanted to be gods–or at least be like Him (Genesis 3:5). This insidious desire became stunningly apparent years later when some of their offspring tried to build a structure to heaven (Genesis 11:3-4), as though they could ascend the heights and become masters of the universe. Thus, the long and sad history of the unsatisfied soul began, and it continues today.
Fifty Shades of Grey is not our real problem. Honestly, if we had no desire for the content of those books, they would be self-published eBooks gathering cyber dust in cyberspace because they could not position themselves in our hearts or minds.
But E. L. James’ books did not vaporize; they went meteoric. The Fifty Shades phenomenon will probably make it into somebody’s time capsule, so future generations will remember it for what it is: a commentary on the condition of our culture’s soul. And that sad commentary should be our primary point of focus today.
It is our culture’s soul that is being laid bare and exposed. More specifically, it is the cravings of our hearts that need our reflection.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15).
E. L. James has a poorly written series that has the power to lure the hearts of millions of Christians and non-Christians toward a life that they can only imagine. And some people are asking why. That is an easy question to answer if you filter the phenomenon through the lens of God’s Word.
Our hearts want this stuff because our hearts are insatiably dissatisfied with what we have, or who we have, or who we are. Fifty Shades could not capture our minds if we were uncapturable. Fifty Shades would have no relevance in our lives or our culture if we did not hunger for it. Therefore, we must ask:
If sinful desires for fantasy, escape, and sexual pleasure were not already in us, we would not be lured away when the predators for our souls dangle the sexual fantasy carrot in front of our craving hearts. James is insightfully instructing us on what E. L. James is doing.
E. L. James wrote a book to capture hearts that were set up for capturing a long time ago. We have a pre-existing condition of dissatisfaction and discontentment. We are little different from the naked man and the naked woman from our dark past. We long to be deeply satisfied outside of God’s provision.
Doing things outside of God’s provision is not a new thing. Think about the last time you became sinfully angry toward someone because they disappointed you. Rather than appropriating God’s provision on the matter, you chose to satisfy your longings through sinful means. (See James 4:1-3).
Whatever lures you to itself reveals the condition of your heart. If God is drawing you, it’s because you desire God above all other options. If sin is luring you, it’s because you desire sin most of all, at least in that moment.
May I ask, “What lures you?” If you experience the drawing power of the Lord because He has captured your heart, you’re in a good place. You will increasingly grow in satisfaction with what He offers as your mind transforms into Christlike believing and behaving. If you find yourself quickly lured away by other things, it is those things that reveal who you really are, and it will be those things that will set you on a dark trajectory–for the rest of your life.
Fifty Shades of Grey is about being lured away. Everybody gravitates toward something. Everybody is in search of satisfaction, and now and then something will come along that will show you what’s in your heart. It will pinpoint you on the moral map.
I’m not all that alarmed by Fifty Shades’ success. I’m not in an uproar either. Honestly, nothing has changed. All that has happened is that Fifty Shades has shown us where we are on the moral landscape. I suspect you already knew that.
Fifty Shades of Grey added one more data point on the end of a pre-existing line of data points that re-affirms what we should already know about ourselves: we want to be satisfied by something other than God. The biblical narrative is replete with these historical mile markers. And there will be more.
For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).
We all are cistern builders–if we want what we want badly enough. The real question for us to examine is, “What are the “shades of gray” that are resident in our hearts?”
The naked man and the naked woman were pulled away from the good Lord by forbidden fruit. Fifty Shades of Grey is another piece of fruit in a large cultural fruit basket that was never intended to satisfy anyone.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).