Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kindly Caution to Young Christian Celebrities

The post I am about to make was sparked by tabloid headlines today involving teen singing idol Justin Bieber. According to this Examiner article (publicized by Fox News Channel) and some other tabloids, Justin has been allegedly boozing it up to his mother's concern, and it's led to fighting between the two. Add to this the very public breakup and courtship between Justin and Selena Gomez, this hasn't been a very good publicity season for Mr. B. But before I say my piece, a couple of parantheticals:

I am not one to pay a whole lot of attention to tabloid stuff. When I was in full time broadcasting—with much of it in hard news and talk shows—I didn't do this kind of garbage. Although I did the occasional celebrity interview, I chose to talk about what they wanted to talk about—and coinidentally what interested ME, which was their work i.e. their current music release, current movie/stage play etc. I avoided the personal/gossip stuff, and I think they appreciated it. When and if they did mention something personal, they were the ones who chose to do it unprompted by me, and I did my best to treat it respectfully.

Secondly, part of my delicacy in this area no doubt is due to recognition that those of us on air are celebrities of a sort, although our faces are not seen. I've been broadcast both via local stations and via networks, so someone might well recognize my voice if I speak. I've had my own share of 2 a.m. phone calls from listeners wanting to yak, counseling for their personal issues etc..and finally got smart enough to get a non-published phone number. Those days are past now, but I remember them and they have helped frame my thinking.

Now, what about Justin. Actually, it's not just about Justin. It's also about Miley Cyrus, Hanson, Britney Spears, the late Brad Renfro, and other young celebrities who early on were quite vocal in interviews about being Christians and loving the Lord Jesus. Well, we've all seen the aftermath. The Christian in these young people soon gets lost in the purple haze of fame, booze, drugs, sexual misbehavior, which leads those of us who are fellow believers to wonder if their faith is/was genuine, or if it was just some publicity stunt. It could well be they did have a good early grounding, then got caught up in destructive behavior. Some end up dead. And it really does break my heart when so much talent and promise gets squandered. The "candle in the wind" gets blown out way too prematurely.

Some of them have trouble coping with growing up and getting into adulthood. For some, the once cute aren't quite so cute anymore, and the vulture-like entertainment industry chews them up and spits them out like yesterday's garbage. It's cruel to use young people like that. Beyond cruel. They need a strong support system, and so many don't have it. If it's not the greed and avarice of "stage parents," it's the greed, avarice and even sexual lust of their managers. And the young star gets his/her guts ripped out. I hate it.

But here's my concern and advice for what it's worth. I make no demands or expectations on unbelievers of any stripe—young, old, well-known or not well-known. I interact with a few to this day. They know how I stand on things, and most are mature enough to allow me my views, and I allow the same for them. I do not expect anyone who has not made a profession of Christian faith, or who does not believe, to act, think and live like a believer. Sometimes, my fellow Christians make that mistake of being outraged when someone acts in a way that a Christian would normally not act. Well, duh!! They aren't Christians! Don't expect it out of them.

HOWEVER!!! - and it's a big "however." When you proclaim yourself publicly as a Christian, and are given an enormous public platform, all eyes are on you whether you like it or not. Of course, none of us are perfect as Christians, just forgiven. But if we are truly Christian, there is supposed to be a change in our lives and we are no longer the same. Our goals and designs for life are not the same, because His take over.

Above all, as Christians—no matter what our age—we are ambassadors of Jesus. That's the purpose of the picture of Queen Elizabeth receiving ambassadorial credentials. I'm illustrating a point. Here's how God's Word puts it:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

When an ambassador goes to a host country, they are to be on their best behavior, remembering that they are the visible representative of their people in the host country. As ambassadors of Christ to the world, we are the visible representative of Jesus in the circles where He has planted us. And honestly, we often represent Him very, very poorly, bringing shame and reproach on Him and His people—the church. We need to remember that we've been bought with a very precious price. We are no longer our own. We are His, and we exist to serve Him—sharing His great love with everyone we can.

There's another Scripture to remember. Luke 12:48—"To whom much is given, much will be required." If we've been blessed with a large platform, we will be held accountable by God for what we do with it.

When I hear reports of young, heretofore vocally Christian celebrities out pole dancing, being sexually involved outside of marriage, boozing and drugging it up, it is grieving. What message does that send to the rest of the world watching us? It makes the faith we profess a joke. We grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells us, and bring shame on the One who died for us.

We are ambassadors. Pray that the Lord doesn't have to call us home prematurely because we've been declared persona non grata. We won't be popular regardless. If we stay true to Christ, the world will hate us because it first hated Him. If we stumble and fall, the world will mock our faith as worthless, and us as hypocrites. But I'd rather suffer for being right than suffer for being wrong.

Think it over, my young brothers and sisters. And put on the brakes while you still can.

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