Fifty Shades of They
“Fantasy vs. Reality”
By Ed Young
February 8, 2015
There’s a cultural epidemic that is wrapped up in complete fantasy. It is a distortion of a more powerful reality about relationships. And it is pulling us away from God’s purposes.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young confronts the popular novel and upcoming movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Through a unique approach, he wakes us up to the reality that God’s purpose and plan for our lives is so much greater than anything fantasy has to offer.
ILLUS: Several days ago I was in a meeting with a young lady who helps me with some of my books. And she challenged me to read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I said,
“You know, I feel uncomfortable about reading the book because basically it’s pornography.” She said,
“Well, just read it because if the media calls or someone else asks a question or whatever you need to be able to explain the story line and you need to know what happened.” So I set out to read this 514-page book.
I skipped over the erotic parts and I read the entire book in 45 minutes. I did.
It’s easy to explain the story line. The main character is a gentleman named Christian Grey, a 27-year-old billionaire. For a book that women really like it has to start out with a ruggedly handsome, 27-year-old billionaire. Christian Grey, though, has some serious issues. He was abused. He basically is a sexual predator. He finds a 21-year-old college student, Anastasia Steele. She’s a virgin. They connect and it glorifies sadomasochism, bondage, and the whole dominant and submission perversion. Basically it normalizes perversion. It’s a book that uses metaphors and clichés and eroticism and art to camouflage what it is – domestic violence.
It was so ironic as I watched the Super Bowl with many of you. You had the quintessential NFL advertisement commercial with the players and their wives shedding tears and talking about the horrors of domestic violence, which I think we would all agree with. Yet also commercials ran advertising “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a book that puts domestic violence in the mainstream. Isn’t that odd? Isn’t that so sad? So tragic?
An excerpt from the book, that I lifted from its pages, here is Christian Grey visiting Ana. You’ve got to realize that he is in complete control of her. He’s bought her all of these things. He has commanded her that she can only wear certain clothes, she has to work out a certain way, eat a certain diet. As I read this book I left it with a low-grade depression because Lisa and I have twins, twin daughters, who are about the age of Ana. And to think about a predator like Christian Grey on the loose, going after young women, is sickening. So here’s an excerpt from Christian’s visit to Ana’s apartment after an argument.
“ ‘No!’ I protest, trying to kick him off. He stops.
‘If you struggle I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make noise, Anastasia, I’ll gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now.’”
It sounds like rape to me. What’s normal is abnormal. What’s abnormal is normal. “Fifty Shades of Grey.” We know, though, that God is not grey when it comes to life, don’t we? We know that God is not grey when it comes to power, money, and sex. We know God is not grey when it comes to marriage, when it comes to friendship. Yet I’ve been watching some of the talk shows as these actors and actresses from “Fifty Shades” have made the circuit and it’s hilarious to watch the media drool over them.
“Oh, you’re such artists! How did you get into character? That’s so brilliant!”
Brilliant? It’s brilliantly sick! It’s brilliantly perverted. It’s brilliantly domestic violence. That’s what the enemy does. The enemy, he inches us, he moves us closer and closer. And at first we kind of laugh at it. Then we say it’s no big deal. Then we say “OK, let me go ahead and absorb it.” Then it becomes just sort of a common thing. It becomes normalized.
T.S. So after reading the book and after thinking about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, I thought to myself, what would Jesus say to them? I mean, what would he say? Hypothetically, what would the Son of God say to, for example, Christian Grey?
I think one of the things he would say is he would say, “Turn to me.” I believe Jesus would say, “Turn to me. Christian, you’ve got a brilliant mind. You’re a billionaire. Self-made, the book says, ruggedly handsome. Man you’ve got all this money. You’ve got the power. You control your life, you control companies, you control relationships, you control all of these things. You’ve got money, you’ve got power, and of course sex. You’ve got sex, and sex is God’s gift.”
Yet, whenever we have a gift the enemy always gives us a counterfeit, doesn’t he? Look at it throughout life. God give us a gift, the enemy brings a counterfeit. So I think Jesus would say turn to me. Turn to me. Because you’re going down the same path that another guy went down, that I talked about in the Bible, in Luke chapter 15.
In Luke 15, Jesus told the story. I love this story of the prodigal son. It’s the first trustafarian ever. Trust fund baby. He comes to his dad and he goes, “Dad, give me everything. I want the whole deal, the whole enchilada, man. I’m old enough. I’m big enough. I’m bad enough. I’m going to do what I’m going to do.” And the father goes, “OK.”
I’m sure Jesus would tell Christian Grey this story. And this guy went out and he used his money, power, sex. PMS, right? Money, power, and sex, that’s what he used, and he did it his way. Then the Bible says that he found himself, this guy so wealthy, the prodigal son, found himself in a pig sty fighting hogs over scraps. Jesus would look at Christian and say,
“Hey Christian, you matter to me. I don’t want to see you in a pig sty, but the end game is the pig sty. It was the pig sty for the prodigal, it’s going to be the pig sty for you. And Ana, I would tell you the same thing.”
Money, sex, and power in and of themselves are fine. Money? Wow, money is not evil. Money can be great. But it can be evil. We can see some of the phenomenal things money has done right here at Fellowship Church. Ten campuses. We think about our beautiful camp on 1,100 acres, all this technology, what we’re doing in Nicaragua, Guatemala, how we’re helping families and what we’re doing just from a leadership perspective. Do you realize Wednesday night we’ll have about 4,000 leaders from all over the world packed into this place? Money, it takes money. And because of our generosity money is awesome.
Power? Power is great. I think Jesus would say to Christian, “You want power? Invite me into your life. Make me the center of your life.” That’s power. The Bible says we will receive power. The word power in the book of Acts is the word we get from dynamite. We’ll have power when the Holy Spirit comes inside of our lives. So power’s not bad. God wants to use it for greatness.
And of course, sex. Sex is made for the marriage bed. The Bible says that from cover to cover. Sex is a good thing. And what’s so interesting about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” … oh you mean women have a libido, too? Women have a sex drive? I didn’t know that! Let me go ahead and thank the author, E.L. James, for letting us in on that. Wow.
“Christian, turn to me. Turn to me before the pig sty!” Because here’s what happened to the prodigal. He lost it all, then he came to his senses. Specifically in Luke 15:17. “When he came to his senses…”
“Christian, live up to your name,” Jesus would say. “Christian, come to your senses. Christian, give me your life. When you give up control you’ll gain control. When you give up power I’ll give you power. When you give up the intimacy that you’re craving I’ll give you real intimacy.”
You know, E.L. James wrote this book. She sold squillions, she’s made squillions. I just made that up, squillions. I like it. It’s a lot of money. You know what this book is about, though? Take a step back. This book is about this author unknowingly bragging about characters who are searching for God. They’re searching for God.
And sadly, for many people, the closest they’ll ever get to God is through sexual intercourse. Put on your thinking hat. When you have sex you’re one with the other. We desire this oneness, this oneness, and we desire it with God. When we have this relationship with God he comes into our lives. We have a hole in our soul and we try to fill this hole with money and sex and power, and power and money and sex, and it gives us a fast, temporary relief from the aches and pains of life, but it doesn’t satisfy. And what’s so ironic is in our search for freedom away from God, things we chase end up incarcerating us. They end up limiting us. So the deepest intimacy many people will ever have is in the act of sex, and it starts with God! God, though, is the author of sex and he says, “Do sex my way, Christian.”
Here’s still another excerpt, and only in a book that’s directed towards women do you have some of these things. Because women – that maternal instinct – can say, and they say to themselves a lot, “Oh, I can change him. I can convert this pervert. Even though I’m in this crazy relationship. Even though he’s stalking me and abusing me and controlling me, I can change him.”
He’s such a complicated person.” And now I have an insight as to why a young man deprived of his adolescence, sexually abused by some evil Mrs. Robinson figure, no wonder he’s old before his time. My heart fills with sadness at the thought of what he must have been through.
Granted, Jesus would look at Christian and say, “Christian, I’m sorry. I know you’re hurt. You, though, are going to have to take responsibility for your life.”
Nowhere in the book does he say, “My bad. My fault. I messed up. I sinned.”
We’ve forgotten about repentance. We have to repent, to do a 180, and Jesus would get in Christian Grey’s grill and say, “You’ve got to turn from your evil ways. You’re committing cosmic treason before God. I know you had a tough life. I know it’s been difficult. I know you’ve been adopted. I know this woman took advantage of you, but you’ve got to take responsibility.”
And in our world today we love to play the victim, don’t we? So popular. From our house all the way to the White House. Their fault! It was somebody else’s fault! It’s not my fault! It’s not my responsibility! We’ve got to step up and take responsibility and turn from it. Christian needs to come to his senses before the pig sty.
And let me talk to you. Anybody in the pig sty here? Anybody in the pig sty in London or Miami? In the Dallas area? Fort Worth area? Anybody in the pig sty? Here’s the good news. You can come to your senses. The prodigal did. He returned back and the father forgave him, clothed him, and threw a par-tay for him! So do a permanent wave to the pig sty, right? Do a permanent wave.
But it’s time to turn before the pig sty. Because away from God… The Bible says there’s a way that seems right but it only leads to death. The Bible says that in Proverbs 14:12. So this way seems right. See perversion has an element of truth in it. If it did not have an element of truth we wouldn’t get involved in it. But man, study history, man left to his own devices will always self destruct. Always.
So this perversion I think needs a conversion. I think Jesus would say, “Christian, turn to me.” I think also he would say this. The devil pays in counterfeit money.
ILLUS: The other day I was traveling and I had several hundred dollars with me. I had $300 in cash. I took $100 out to pay for something and immediately the lady – bing! – held it up to the light.
That light separates the real deal from counterfeit, and the same is true when we hold our lives up and our relationships up and our power up and our money up and our sex up to the God of the universe, the Light of the world. Is it real or counterfeit?
The devil, though, pays in counterfeit money. Ladies, the rave, you know, counterfeit bags. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or the Prada or whatever. They’re big, man. People love them. It’s hard to tell, are they real or fake? I’m not sure. “Oh girl, that’s fake. I see that’s fake. That’s fake.”
We should handle the real so much, we should hang out with the right ‘they’ so much and do the right thing so much, when something counterfeit comes our way, when a temptation comes our way, whoa! Hey! That’s counterfeit! The devil pays in counterfeit money!
ILLUS: Several years ago a porn star sat right there and I sat right there with several people. And I had an opportunity to hear this girl’s story and I talked to her. Here’s this girl, done all the stuff mentioned, and more, in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Here’s a young woman, made all this money, not only in film but also being a high-priced call girl. Yet of all the people I’ve met, one of the emptiest human beings I’ve ever talked to in my life. And after talking to her about PMS – power, money, and sex – when she walked out of the church she turned to her agent/porn star/boyfriend and said, “What if he’s right?” Hopefully she’s still alive today. Hopefully she read some of the books that we gave her from our resource center.
The devil pays in counterfeit money. In her early 20’s, look at her eyes, listen to her talk. The devil pays in counterfeit money.
So I believe Jesus would say to Christian, “Turn to me.” He would have his nail-pierced hands out. “Turn to me, come to me. I want to forgive you and cleanse you and change your life.” I believe he would say, “I’m sorry.” I think also he would say this. “Christian, stop looking for the mortal to do what only the immortal can.” Throughout the book you feel the angst, the tension, where Christian and Ana, they’re trying to put on a human relationship the pressure that only God can fulfill.
I love my wife. We’ve been married for 33 years, but there are things only God can do in my life. And many times I can mess up when I put divine pressure on a human relationship. And in this realm and this book? Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s so sad. It’s so tragic. “Christian, turn to me! Look to me! I’ll show you what life is all about!”
ILLUS: You know I had the opportunity Wednesday night to speak to our students. You know we have thousands of students who gather together, just students, Wednesday night? Wow. I would have killed for that opportunity when I was that age. I mean, that many students? It’s ridiculous. And I get nervous especially when I talk to students. And I talked to them about 2 Corinthians 6:14, and I’ve been reading this and I talked about it in my book a lot.
It’s 2 Corinthians 6:14, a very unpopular verse to singles, and especially for the young people. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
What this means is our best friends – the right ‘they’ – have to be people who have the common denominator of Jesus. That’s what it means. Those we date and those who become our mate, we must have the common denominator. We all have a lot of friends who are not necessarily followers of God. I do, you should, too. But those we have fellowship with, those we are close to, we’ve got to be yoked together.
A yoke was a piece of farm equipment. It had two holes on it, a wooden structure, and you would put animals of equal kind and equal strength in this little device so you could plow a straight line. When we’re equally yoked that’s what happens.
Now as a believer most of us, just using our common sense, would have come to this conclusion without this text, without 2 Corinthians 6:14, but it’s in the Bible and God has our best interest in mind. This is not like a rally killer here. No. It is God’s genius. And here’s what I talked to the students about. Here’s the sermon in about a minute. I talked about faith. You’ve got to have the right ‘they’ in your life, those people you’re close to, who you have fellowship with, the people you date, the people who become your mate, they have to have made a faith decision. They have to have come to a point in their life where they admit their wrong-doing, repent, and turn to Jesus.
ILLUS: OK, what am I? <elephant sound effect> What am I? Come on! No! I’m not an elephant! I’m a 53-year-old pastor trying to imitate an elephant! What? Ladies, you’re dating that guy. “Oh, he’s a Christian!” <elephant sound effect> Hmm… really? I’m not an elephant. I’m a 53-year-old pastor trying to be an elephant.
If you have faith you’re going to have fruit. What’s fruit? Fruit of the Spirit, the Bible says. The book of Galatians, we’ll have the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5, the Holy Spirit. Love and joy and peace and all those things, supernatural, 100% certified organic fruit will produce in our lives. You see the genius of God? Can you imagine being joined together with someone where you could not share that which is most precious to you?
Then – family, family. Is this person the right ‘they,’ the person you’re dating, the person who will be your mate, are they a part of a local church? The local church is the body of Christ. Are they a part of that? Are they serving? Are they sowing? Are they sharing? Are they involved?
And then, of course, you get married you’re going to have kids. Most people do. Can you imagine one person operating off of one set of plans and you’ve got the other person operating off another set of plans? You’ve got one person using this language and saying – well, just make up your own mind about spiritual things. And you’re saying this and saying that, “Whatever you want to do. No real discipline. Just go for it! And I’ll just sit down when you’re a toddler and reason with you in your little playpen. Kinda do the Dr. Spock thing.”
And over here you’ve got someone going “no, no, no, no! We’ve got to have discipline! We have got to understand what it means to be a parent. We’ve got to be involved in the church. We’ve got to be immersed in the church. Our kids, yeah, when they’re under our roof, they don’t have a choice. They’re going to church.”
Can you imagine being hooked up with someone where you don’t have this operative? So I think Jesus would say, “Christian, you’ve got to find the right ‘they’ in your life. You’ve got to invite a lot of people out of your life. You’ve got to delete a lot of contacts. You’ve got to move away from people. If not, you’ll be in a pig sty!” And many times people never get out of the pig sty. They die in the pig sty.
I think another thing that Jesus might say to Christian would be, “Get help. Get help.” The Bible says in Proverbs 11:14, “In a multitude of counselors there is safety.”
My family and I, we’ve benefitted greatly from Christian counseling. I’m not shy to admit that. I’ve got blind spots, so do you. And a great Biblical counselor will point those out and help you with that. “Christian, you need several years of counseling.” This whole thing is taking place in Seattle. Jesus would probably say, “Christian, I know a great church for you in Seattle! There’s a great one, just for you. Get involved, man.” Seek Biblical counseling.
And here’s what happens to a lot of us. We’ll go to Biblical counseling and we’re like, “Oh man, I don’t like her. I don’t like him. I’m not going back.”
You know why we say that? Conviction! The Bible says in the book of Proverbs, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” So, get help. Many of you need Christian counseling. You’re dating? Go to Christian counseling. You’re married? Go to Christian counseling. You’ve been married for 33 years? Go to Christian counseling. I believe that’s what Jesus would say to Christian Grey, and hopefully Ana would be listening as well.
T.S. Oh, yeah! I know what you’re thinking. Some of you are going, “Hey man, Ed, this is just a book, my brother! It’s just a book! I mean, come on! ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is just a book!”
Just a book? Just a book? I hold in my hand the Book. The Book of Life. I hold in my hand the Book of marriage. I hold in my hand the Book of power and money and sex. I hold in my hand the Book of an amazing, abundant agenda that God has. I hold in my hand the Book that will teach you what repentance and faith and a clear conscience is all about. I hold in my hand the Book that will help you with parenting. I hold in my hand the Book that will teach you about friendship. I hold in my hand the Book that will teach you about life. It is The Book. The Bible. The B-I-B-L-E. That is the Book for me!
Remain on your feet. Because as I promised you I’m going to baptize this book. And this is not humorous. This is serious. This thing is all about perversion. But what I’m doing right now is an act of conversion. I’m going to baptize it really good.
[Ed baptizes “Fifty Shades of Grey” and then leads in closing prayer.]