Untangling our Heart from Art

The bigger issue I run into is not how I define art, but how I let art define my heart

Untangling our Heart from Art
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse / Unsplash

A blog about art, why? I may define art a little more broadly than most people…art can be a symphony, a famous painting, a hit TV show like Ted Lasso, and even a Devin Booker jump shot.

What is and what is not art has been debated and argued about for 1,000s of years. Joshua S. Porter, a pastor, professional musician, and artist wrote in his book “With All its Teeth” a definition that I can get on board with, “in its simplest terms, when a person or people create something that communicates ideas, emotions, or craftsmanship, this is art.” 

When I was an undergrad at ASU, I bought a season pass with my college girlfriend to the Phoenix Symphony and had the chance to attend half a dozen symphonies. The feeling of live music that differed from my usual hardcore show was hard to describe but it felt distinguished and overwhelming to be in its presence. Fast forward ten-plus years watching Ted Lasso, I laughed, cried, and smiled at the beauty of storytelling and character development while telling my wife not to look at me and see the tears running down my cheeks. Currently, I watch Devin Booker play basketball on average three times a week and witness a near-perfect jump shot from so many angles, with such high-level competition, at the very peak ability of a sport, I don’t know how it couldn’t be labeled as art.

The point is that art is all around us and we all appreciate art, celebrate art, consume art, and are impacted by art in some form or fashion all the time. The bigger issue I run into is not how I define art, but how I let art define my heart.

Have you ever watched something that you felt was inappropriate whether in violence, profanity, sexuality, or some sort of content that made you feel uneasy and guilty? Have you ever experienced watching your sports team and the rollercoaster of emotion took you on a journey of anger, sadness, and even joy that seems over the top for a game? Have you ever played a video game that was so entertaining and captivating that your time seemed to just melt away and seem to form an addiction to it? Have you ever scrolled Instagram or other social media admiring other people’s content only to realize there is a fit of jealousy brewing in your soul?

How do we stop the “art” from consuming our heart?

1.   Be careful what you let in

“Garbage in, garbage out.” We’ve all heard it (maybe from your parents) and many of us have said it! But, sometimes labeling everything as garbage is an overly simplistic way to look at our world. There are many books, movies, TV shows, and forms of art that are not good to let into our lives. Some are easy to define like pornography which is not art, rather it is abusive and oppressive. But, some are more nuanced like a rated-R movie that contains questionable content yet communicates human emotion and experience (aka Gladiator, Titanic, etc.). Going to an art gallery with Renaissance art that exposes quite a lot may be ok for you, but going to a Burning Man festival might be tiptoeing in an ethical minefield.

Paul addresses this in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 that we need to have a clear conscience of what is acceptable to allow into our lives and if it causes us to sin then we need to get rid of it. If it causes someone to sin around us, then we also need to get rid of it and not practice it in front of others. The hard part is this requires nuance, discipline, and personal understanding. Can we surround ourselves with a sinful world and be unaffected? No, but are there parts of our fallen world that impact us less than it may another Christian brother or sister? Absolutely. You may be able to watch a movie or listen to music that has vulgarity and it can be a connection point with someone far from Jesus at work or another place and have no negative impact on your spiritual relationship with Christ. Some might not have the same experience so it is vitally important that we do the hard work of understanding how the bible defines sin and what are the sins we struggle the most with.

The bottom line is we need to be careful what we allow in because unless we are going to become a monk in the middle of nowhere with only our bibles, we are bombarded with art that is banging on the door of our hearts and we must decide what gets in.

2.   Make clear boundaries

I have been to my fair share of concerts in my life that range from stadiums to dive bars and everything in between, but the thing they have in common is a security guard or bouncer who makes sure you have a ticket to get in. We don’t have a natural bouncer that protects what gets into our hearts so we need to create one through clear boundaries.

If you struggle to keep a clean mouth, pay attention to what helps feed that habit and control what you can control. Can you make your co-workers stop using profanity? No, but you can make sure it’s not in the movies, music, or media you can consume. You could only listen to clean music on the radio or avoid Tarantino movies or not listen to a podcast that sends you down that path. That may sound trivial to some, but we all have different sins and struggles that are harder to conquer than others.

If you struggle with a social jealousy complex, unfollow the influencers, set time limits to how much you get on or how many reels you’ll allow yourself to watch. If you struggle with lust, download software to block or delete apps that push you down that path.

Sin is not a one-size-fits-all, we all struggle differently and we need a battle plan to fight it that makes sense for your personal war.

3.   Consume soul food

Where some areas of the church can get it so wrong is when we just preach what to avoid in our world instead of what to consume. Are there things we need to flee from? Absolutely! Go read Paul’s letters and they are specific directions to specific churches to avoid the specific sins that a specific congregation was struggling against. But, in every Paul letter, the continual glue holding it together was to cling to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We need to be wary of not letting bad in, but we need to be more motivated to let the great in. Are you feasting on soul food in the form of the Holy Bible and a vibrant prayer life? When we gorge ourselves on the scriptures it will give us the maturity, guidance, discipline, and nuance to be able to enact steps 1 and 2, but if we neglect God’s word and communication with Him we are doomed to fail.


I am so passionate about this topic because so many great Christians before me modeled this very thing. Paul was a Jew to the Jews, and a Greek to the Greeks, Spurgeon held his Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Jesus hung out with sinners, gluttons, and screwups. The job description of a Christian is “Making Jesus Known” and to effectively do that you have to do life in a dark world. That dark world is full of art that can mess up your heart…but my prayer is that we would be godly people who monitor that door, set up boundaries, and consume God’s Word above all else while relating to our communities in a way that shares the truth of Jesus Christ that can forever change their world.