Romance novels have always been extremely popular, especially with women. In fact, romance novels have been labeled by some as “pornography for women.” Not all romance novels contain sex scenes or sexual innuendo, but, more and more often, that is becoming a component in them. Should a Christian read romance novels? This is a difficult question to answer because not all romance novels are the same. But the Bible has principles upon which to base our decisions in all of life’s questionable areas.
First is Paul’s admonition to believers in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If the romance novel contains anything that is not honorable, pure, lovely or admirable, then we are not to “think about” it. Some people can read or watch or listen to things and forget them immediately afterward. Most people, however, are affected, some very deeply, by the things they take into their minds. If the elements of romance novels do not contain the things contained in the Philippians passage, then they fall into the category of what we are not to dwell upon. A good test is whether we could honestly say we could read from the novel out loud to Jesus and feel comfortable in doing so.
There are many Christian romance novels that offer rich characterizations and intriguing plots without sex scenes. There are many secular novels from previous eras that do the same thing. Jane Eyre, for instance, is a classic romance novel that not only contains nothing offensive, but its message is entirely in line with Christian principles. Many such books exist.
Another biblical principle to be considered is the need to protect our eyes, ears, and heart. It is important not to let novels, movies, or TV shows influence our perception of what is real. Many people watch TV or read books and begin to think those stories portray life as it is “supposed” to be. They then risk becoming disillusioned with their own lives, which don’t line up with “life” as portrayed in the books or movies.
As in all things, wisdom is available from God who promises to give it without finding fault (James 1:5). We can ask God to convict us of things that may be questionable, and His Spirit will speak to our hearts as we yield to Him for guidance.