We love Christian celebrities. And by that I don’t solely imply audio system and pastors who achieve celeb standing within the Christian world. I imply well-known celebrities in secular areas—suppose Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Daddy Yankee, or the newest, Hulk Hogan—who publicly convert or make a career of religion.
In a single sense, this rejoicing is sweet and proper, an extension of the “rejoicing within the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). However applauding celeb professions of religion from afar isn’t fairly the identical as rejoicing when witnessing true repentance. And if we’re not cautious, we are able to find yourself greedy at straws, in search of the subtlest of indicators that our favourite well-known figures are believers—even when they’re bearing little to no fruit (Matt. 7:15–20).
This behavior of in search of Christians in excessive locations is common throughout cultural and political strains. Our household watched soccer video games collectively once I was a child, and each time a participant pointed to the sky after a landing, my mother would say (typically joking, typically not), “I guess he’s a Christian!” She and my sisters do the identical factor now with Okay-pop band members, and I as soon as had a roommate who was lowkey obsessive about Justin Bieber and commonly prayed for his salvation.
Believers on either side of the political aisle are desperate to show that their favourite politicians are actually and really saved—like those that declare former president Donald Trump was (repeatedly) led within the sinner’s prayer, or those that level to President Joe Biden’s Mass attendance as an indication of real religion.
This previous fall, as quickly as information unfold of actor Matthew Perry’s passing, Christians began circulating quotes from his autobiography detailing a strong encounter he had with God. Only a few weeks prior, Christians had been scouring the pages of Britney Spears’s new memoir for kernels of religion—that are there, alongside her account of studying Kabbalah from Madonna and the revelation that she doesn’t have “strict concepts about faith.”
Spears’s non secular syncretism is one cause this eagerness to search out breadcrumbs of religion isn’t easy Christian hope: It encourages us to miss critical departures from primary orthodoxy in our enthusiasm for claiming a well-known soul.
Extra lately, there’s been debate in evangelical circles concerning the Muslim-turned–New Atheist mental determine Ayaan Hirsi Ali—whose public conversion outlines her causes for subscribing to Christianity however doesn’t point out Jesus in any respect. Whereas some say she’s only a new believer who doesn’t have the precise phrases but, others speculate that she’s not a lot gained a Christian religion as accepted the Judeo-Christian worldview as a sociopolitical instrument.
Furthermore, our obsession with celeb conversions evinces a sort of favoritism Scripture explicitly prohibits (Gal. 2:6; 1 Tim. 5:21). James 2 warns us about this: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our superb Lord Jesus Christ should not present favoritism,” for “for those who actually preserve the royal regulation present in Scripture, ‘love your neighbor as your self,’ you might be doing proper. However for those who present favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the regulation as lawbreakers” (vv. 1, 8, 9).
Heaven’s rejoicing appears to be neutral, however the biggest rejoicing right here on earth is simply too typically reserved for celeb sinners. In spite of everything, can we rejoice with equal gusto when individuals in different industries turn into believers? Will we bounce for pleasure once we uncover our plumber is a Christian? Are we simply as anticipating indicators that our extraordinary neighbor or coworker is coming to religion in Jesus?
In fact, our neighbor changing in all probability received’t make Christianity appear cooler, whereas celeb conversions can. It’s onerous to think about that’s not an element on this phenomenon. Possibly, we predict, the general public conversion of a well-known particular person will assist the reason for Christianity.
Granted, the Bible makes it clear that we’re all referred to as to make use of our skills to glorify God (Matt. 25)—and that might embrace worldwide fame, reputation amongst our friends, or a normal regard for our good deeds (1 Pet. 2:12). However Jesus’s earthly ministry didn’t depend on excessive converts’ social standing. He didn’t pursue the well-to-do or extremely regarded however quite these on the margins who held little to no energy and affect. The Previous and New Testaments are congruent from begin to end in demonstrating that God chooses the silly issues to disgrace the sensible, exalts the insignificant to disgrace the self-important, and bestows biggest worth on the individuals the world finds most nugatory (1 Cor. 1:28).
Certainly, within the physique of Christ, Paul says, “the elements that we predict are much less honorable we deal with with particular honor,” as a result of “God has put the physique collectively, giving larger honor to the elements that lacked it.” Why? “In order that there needs to be no division within the physique, however that its elements ought to have equal concern for one another. If one half suffers, each half suffers with it; if one half is honored, each half rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:23–27).
Once we unduly exalt the already-exalted, we might fail to take care of this a part of the physique of Christ otherwise: We danger doing a grave disservice to the very individuals we admire, notably when they’re new believers and subsequently weak of their religion. The Bible repeatedly warns in opposition to delight (Prov. 8:13; 1 Pet. 5:5; James 4:6), however lauding celeb Christians encourages it.
Inappropriate honor can also compel new celeb Christians to steer in a season of religion after they would do higher to observe. Final fall, the tv persona and entrepreneur—and former occultist—Kat Von D posted a video of her public baptism on Instagram. Her put up was reshared by numerous giddy believers, and but she made it clear in a follow-up video that she possible received’t speak a lot about her religion on-line: “In case you began following me since you suppose this may turn into some sort of Christian meme web page, it’s not going to occur.”
“It’s not for every other cause than I simply don’t actually really feel geared up to be the poster baby for Christianity,” Von D continued. “I believe that I’m nonetheless studying and as I do, I’ll turn into extra geared up.” That’s sensible, for as James suggested, “Not lots of you must turn into academics, my fellow believers, as a result of you realize that we who educate will likely be judged extra strictly” (James 3:1). Particularly for these with massive audiences, sound discipleship ought to come first.
Jesus Christ himself grew to become well-known, however he’s not a Celebrity—and his followers aren’t referred to as to fame both. The conversion tales we amplify shouldn’t be tributes to secular stardom however testimonies of God’s grace. Let’s not orient our evangelism technique to succeed in the well-known on the expense of the forsaken, and let’s cease in search of celebrities to validate our religion.
Stefani McDade is theology editor at Christianity In the present day.
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