This certainly isn’t the first time that I have discussed or written about this topic. In fact, it’s one that has been constantly on my mind since the year 2000. I have been lambasted about this probably more than anything else, probably due to my outspokenness and inability to communicate effectively on the topic, and not necessarily due to others being as far from my beliefs as I may think they are. With that being said, if you have a moment, join me, and let’s check a few things out.
We would probably all say that we know we are to imitate Christ, and not others. Yet we often lift up celebrity Christians as being those special people who have “arrived.” Not only are they Christians but they are successful Christians; be that a TV personality, a large pastor/leader, pro athlete, etc. The reality is that they look like they have everything that we want. Folks, if anyone has arrived it has not a thing to do with whether or not they are famous, but it is wholly dependent upon their focus on Christ; His redemptive work, His friendship, and His love so freely given.
But, but, those celebrities have so many temptations.
I want my kids to know that you can be successful and still follow Jesus.
The world needs to see that kind of witness on that stage.
All of the above statements have been said to me over the years when this topic has come up for discussion. Let me try to succinctly answer each one individually.
The richest man in the world has no more temptations than the poor man. If you think he does then you don’t understand some of the most basic principles of Scripture; idolatry is man’s number one sin and the building of idols is mans favorite pastime. I read an outlandish statement the other day concerning the morals of a very wealthy man “because he hadn’t done as bad as he could have.” God help us. No, a poor man can’t pay $200 a month for a website, but he can sure hang out at the Flash Foods and flirt with the cashier. There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man – 1 Cor 10:13
Concerning the second statement I don’t believe that we realize how far we are from the teachings of Jesus when we put those two statements into a parallel thought. The simple answer is that we should worry about the second half of that statement and forget about the first, but I will try to answer a little deeper than that. Success, and the Son of Man don’t belong in the same sentence. He had no where to lay His head. He was constantly about the Father’s business. Can you imagine a believer in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to be a Christian, trying to teach their child this principle? How could they? How can we? For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. – Mark 8:35
Well the last statement could certainly get us into some deep theological waters so we will simply address it from some things that Jesus said as well as our own pride. I do believe that this thought stems to some degree from the idea that could do “better” if we had “more.” On more than one occasion Jesus stated that the Jews of His day wouldn’t change their beliefs even if they heard from someone who had risen from the dead. At issue is always man’s rejection of God, not God’s need for someone special to persuade men. “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. – John 3:19
The above are some of the common excuses, but I want to push a little harder because I don’t believe many believers have given much thought to some realities of life when it comes to celebrity Christians.
In our personal lives we usually go to a great deal of trouble to keep the nitty gritty realities of our lives hidden from even our closest friends. Mad at your spouse; well, you might complain to your friends, but you probably won’t tell them about your own shortcomings. Blown money financially; well, complain about car repairs and don’t admit that you haven’t been planning your spending wisely.
From a celebrity you are only seeing a snippet of reality and quite frankly that is just not enough for us to be investing the amount of energy and emotion that we do. Does (insert favorite here), have something brilliant to say? Do you have a friend that we would say the same thing? Invest your time and energy in that friend for it will help you far more spiritually than the words from someone whom you don’t really know. The focus on celebrity Christians puts us in an ‘Amen Corner’ where we feel justified and vindicated in our beliefs. Forget the ‘Amen Corner’ and find a group that will engage with you in discussions about the hope we have in Christ and our own selfishness which causes us to repetitively take our eyes off Him.
Lastly, celebrities function in a totally different sphere than us and we probably don’t fully understand that truth. I have been following via Facebook and Twitter a little tit for tat over the last three months. This individual/group promotes the books/events of this other individual/group and they promote another individual/group and eventually the entire thing makes a circle. Western Christianity is a huge bu$ine$$. Huge. If I were to lose my job due to behavior on my part there is no residual income to allow me to function normally from a material-western-culture standpoint. My life would drastically change. For many of these folks that’s certainly not the case and it would behoove us to give some consideration to that fact. Sadly, this phenomenon has kept most of these celebrity Christians from speaking up about their brothers and sisters who are living a life for self – unless, of course, they fall into a different theological camp.
I have rambled and I would like to end this with some encouragement. We like engaging. We like feeling like we belong. Unfortunately these behaviors unchecked will lead us into a dependence on man and not on Christ. Ultimately it will lead to us putting our hope in man; their teaching, their behavior, etc. So, find a good dead person or two and let their words be the words that point you to Christ. If they are dead you will probably have a pretty good idea of the realities of their lives, including their struggles, and we won’t feel so pressed to defend them and in so doing distract ourselves and others from Christ. Most importantly, look to Jesus. Look to His sacrifice on earth. Look to His love for the unlovable. Look to His compassion on the sick and wretched. Look to His trust in the Father. Look to His sacrifice for you. Not a celebrity, a Savior.