As if American Christianity wasn’t hard enough. Walking by the Spirit in a culture that worships self and success and cold hard cash is always challenging. America is particularly susceptible to celebrity worship. Whether we are talking about the Beatles or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or Justin Bieber, Americans are infatuated with the famous.
This creates all kinds of issues, but especially when celebrities publicly promote a sinful lifestyle. NBA center Jason Collins has made big news by being the first active professional in the “big four” (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL) to come out as being gay.
What should we think as Christians when celebrities reveal sinful lifestyles?
- We should not be surprised. Human culture has been sinful since the first human culture in Eden. The reality is that for every sin that is revealed publicly, there are literally countless others that remain well hidden. Sin is not new, and human culture embracing and celebrating sin is not novel. Let’s stop pretending God hasn’t warned us repeatedly that the majority will not walk by faith.
- We should pray for individuals. Celebrities are people too, and like everyone else they need faith and forgiveness. Too often our response to celebrity sin is to call for judgement and condemnation. When we do so without offering grace we have bought the lie that celebrities are two-dimensional fictional characters. They are all too real, with real souls that struggle.
- America is a free country. We cannot legislate holiness or prescribe faith. One of the hard realities of enjoying life in America is the freedom to sin. We must acknowledge that those who follow Jesus and those who do not have the freedom to make certain sinful choices under our laws. We surely do not agree that such choices are wise, but we must respect a person’s right to make such a choice.
- We should be up front about sin. We must not hesitate to label homosexuality, adultery, sex outside of marriage, drunkenness, or any other sinful behavior as sin. As we do this we should be clear and compassionate, realizing that God is slow to anger and abounding with lovingkindness.
- We should instruct our children. Our children are particularly susceptible to celebrity worship. We need to take these moments as an opportunity to teach our children that everyone struggles with sin, and that the best role models are those who have repented of their sin and put their faith in Christ. We should warn our children against any heroes who are repentant over sin.
- We should mourn the destructiveness of sin. At the end of the day a celebrity announcement of a sinful lifestyle reminds us that every inch of our planet is tainted by sin and cries out for redemption. Whether we are talking about ancient Sodom and Gomorrah or present day America, sin will continue to destroy until every tongue confesses Jesus as Lord.
- We should preach the gospel. Paul’s thought process in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 is instructive for us. He says, I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. We are ambassadors for Christ, and much needed ambassadors. Let us shine the light of the gospel as humble sinners who only by God’s grace have come to faith in Jesus.