JUSTIN & KANYE
“Did you hear Justin Bieber’s a Christian?” my friend Aaron asked me a few years ago. I don’t recall my response, but I think it fell somewhere between “Good for him” and “Yeah, sure… We’ll see.” Later that week, I searched for his newest album on Spotify and tried sniffing out any sign of redemptive flavoring in his music. After listening to snippets of each song, I dismissed the news as the latest attention seeking ploy by another pop star.
Now three years later, those rumors appear to be true. In fact, while Justin Bieber worship videos are infecting the interwebs, another megastar has also claimed born-again status. The megastar rapper Kanye West now conducts Sunday services in churches and other venues around the nation. Yeezus has apparently given his life to Jesus.
Secretly, I’m a tad bit cynical. I always wonder how far celebrities will go to get their face plastered all over new websites and magazines. But I don’t know them, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s never good when I start playing the judgmental Christian version of Where’s Waldo. It turns out I can’t always spot whose heart Jesus is really in. Only God can, so I’ll leave it up to him and assume both Justin and Kanye are genuinely following Jesus.
How does that change my life? Now, I’m thankful to say, it doesn’t.
In high school, I used to fantasize about leading Eminem or Brittney Spears or some other superstar to Jesus. I used to practice these imaginary conversations while staring at myself in the bathroom mirror pausing every now and then to pop a zit or pull out a blackhead. “But you need Him,” I’d say confidently. “You need Jesus.” For some reason, I always imagined myself saying it to them through an open limo window or backstage at a concert.
Why did I imagine a ministry of introducing celebrities to Jesus? “They have so much influence. They could reach so many people for Jesus.” I remember repeating those exact words to my parents and youth group friends. But something else was lurking beneath my seemingly good intentions. I wanted a celebrity who I admired to validate my faith in Jesus. I wanted to be on the cool team instead of the weirdo team. I wanted someone who was larger than life to draw stadiums of ordinary people toward Jesus. I understood the magnetic power of fame, and I wanted to leverage it to suck people into the church like a giant magnet picking up steel bobby pins from the carpet.
Here’s the problem. In wanting to leverage power and fame to bring people to Jesus, I was desiring the complete opposite of what Jesus wanted. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus loves famous people, but while I was secretly hoping to lead a celebrity to Jesus, Jesus was opening my eyes to the ordinary people around me and saying, “Love them.”
To be fair to my younger self, I did not spend all of my time on imaginary conversations in front of the bathroom mirror. I did love some people, and some of my friends chose to follow Jesus. But I held onto a lie- a lie I’ve heard repeated over and over again in many different forms: Wealth, power, and fame will draw people to Jesus. It’s not true. Jesus draws people to Jesus.
I did not meet Jesus through celebrities with extraordinary accomplishments. I met Him through middle of the road, small-town men and women who sacrificed their time and energy to love me. Jesus was revealed to me through two loving parents, an underpaid youth pastor, a retired taxidermist, adult volunteers in our youth group, and numerous other ordinary people.
“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
I know how tempting it is to bask in the glow of “celebrity.” I live in a city full of influencers and full-blown celebrities. I’ve been guilty of laughing too hard when hanging out with a mid-level celebrity who told me a mediocre joke. And I’ve been the guy nervously stuttering through a dry cotton mouth when meeting one of my favorite artists. But I’m asking the Lord to help me see people like He sees them.
If God calls me to tell a celebrity about Jesus, I’m game. But first, Jesus calls me to my neighbors and the normal, broken people around me. In Scripture, God has never offered to fulfill my misplaced fantasies. He asks me to open my eyes and see His Kingdom come through small, normal acts of obedience. Jesus won’t say to me someday, “I was in a mansion, and you visited me. Thankyou.” He’ll say, “I was in prison, and you visited me.” Jesus doesn’t call us to serve the famous and the powerful. He calls us to serve broken and the weak.Jesus doesn't call us to serve the famous and the powerful. He calls us to serve the broken and the weak. Click To Tweet
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Here’s the good news. We’re all broken and weak. Eminem, Brittney Spears, Kanye, Justin Bieber, you, and me. All of us.
WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST
Am I excited to hear Kanye and Justin Bieber are following Jesus? Yes! Of course. But I’m not excited about their influence. And I’m not expecting a spiritual revival from their fame.
I’m excited because Jesus is showing two more people the depth of their sin, brokenness, and weakness. Jesus is showing two more people the height of His holiness, His goodness, and His Love. And Jesus is asking two more ordinary people to take up their cross and follow Him. Our Father throws a huge party for every prodigal who comes back home. He doesn’t care if we were ever famous. Fame or the lack of it might define who we are to the rest of the world. But it doesn’t define who we are to God. Only Jesus does.
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” (James 2:1)
James 2:1 seems like a harsh word, but it’s not. James wants to encourage us to put all of our faith in Jesus. When my faith is cast on Jesus, people like Justin & Kanye look less like powerful celebrities and more like two broken people who need God’s love just as much as I do.
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