Attention: If you haven't read the first article in the series yet, please read it, it lays a biblical foundation for this article. You can find it here: [Click Me!]
Before we get into the article, it should be noted this series is a direct response to the attitudes I saw in my fellow believers as they reacted to reports that Bieber was a Christian. It was the harshness and inability for some believers to even recognize that Bieber could be saved which made me first ponder where we are as Christians in our application of brotherly love. Because of this, the article is lengthy and contains a lot of information, but I assure you, it is worth the read.
Who is Justin Bieber?
Almost everybody knows who Justin Bieber is and, if you do, you probably already have a pretty strong opinion about who he is as a person. You might hate him, or you might love him, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with Justin Bieber, he is a famous pop singer and songwriter (or maybe I should say, “was” since he hasn’t written songs for a long time, and may not even go back to songwriting again in the future.) Anyone who’s followed Bieber’s career knows he’s gained quite the reputation for his many poor choices. The media loves to pick up on these stories since they can make Bieber a quick target for accusation and speculation. You probably have already been given biases towards Justin Bieber; however, today I’m going to ask you to set aside those biases so we can look at his life, specifically, his pursuit of our God, with new eyes. So together, let’s try to look beyond Justin’s outward appearance and attempt to look at his heart- where he’s been, and where he desires to be.
Justin Bieber’s Story
Unlike the last person in this series, Tim Tebow, Justin Bieber had a very different home life. While Tim Tebow had the benefit of growing up in a stable home, Bieber did not. Although he grew up in what could be called a “Christian home” it was not a perfect situation. We don’t know a whole lot about what his upbringing looked like, but here's what we do know.
Justin Bieber’s mother got saved a little over a year before he was born. After reaching a low point in her life filled with drugs, sexual immorality, shoplifting, and eventually drug dealing, she was arrested and placed in a mental institution. There she attempted to end her own life, but, by the grace of God, survived the attempt. Afterward, she opened up to a local pastor who had been reaching out to her and told him just how hopeless she felt. After talking with him, she decided to listen to his advice and give God a try. In her mind, it was the only option she had left for trying to save her broken life. So she reached out to God for the first time in her life and became a Christian. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lKzqRrLjmg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8T0FaBmJd0)
Like many people, Bieber grew up without a father and as he grew up he also grew angry with Christianity due to its hypocrisy. Bieber himself admits this is why he chose to run away from religion. (His mother and his home church also had a few quirks in their belief system which probably didn’t help either)
For years, Justin followed in the footsteps of his mother with drugs, sex, and other things, until he too ended up having run-ins with the law. It was during this low point of his life that he, just as his mother, reached out to Christ. He had previously created a few religiously themed songs in his career and made comments about being a Christian, however, He admits he never truly claimed Christ for himself up to this point. This change took place in mid-to-late 2014 when Bieber had a realization about Christianity. Bieber realized for the first time that Christianity wasn’t about doing good works to get into heaven (what Bieber often refers to as being religious) but instead was about a personal relationship with the God of the Bible. After this realization, Bieber accepted Christ, got baptized, and dedicated his life to the Lord, not because he loved God first, but because God first loved him. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZQGZOmFU5U)
From here Bieber started to grow spiritually. Through the leading of godly men, Bieber began making changes to his life. In the Oct/Nov 2015 issue of Complex magazine, Bieber said,
“I’m not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation. I want to share what I’m going through and what I’m feeling and I think it shouldn’t be ostracized. ... I actually feel better and more free now that I know what I can do and what I can’t do. I’m gonna use my voice for a reason. I think that people, as soon as they start hearing me saying I’m a Christian, they’re like, ‘Whoa Justin, back up, take a step back!’… “We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice….I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in. … It’s like with God: The whole thing with religion is you present yourself holy and bring your offerings so that God can bless you, when the whole point of the relationship [should be], ‘No, I’m gonna do this because he loves me. I’m gonna do this because he’s amazing and not because [I] have to, [but] because [I] want to.’ That’s the whole thing with religion that’s been throwing off the people. It’s not a ‘have to.’ It should be just like a personal relationship. Like, ‘Hey, I love you because you first loved me.’ ... If we can understand that we’re all imperfect, let’s come to God and come for his help. You’re not weak by doing that. I think that’s a common misperception of Christians, that you’re being weak because you can’t handle it. None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.”
I don’t think you can ask for a stronger statement of faith than that! Amen, Brother Bieber! Those are the words of someone who truly understands the grace of our God! It was at this point in his life that Bieber began using his stage as an opportunity to present Christ to his fans. To show his connection to Christ, he started singing Christians songs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VciFx9UGwEU) and praying publicly during some of his concerts.
On November 2015, A little over a year after his salvation, Bieber released his album, “Purpose.” An album that was already in active production when Bieber became a Christian. As a result of his Salvation, Bieber dedicated this album to his new relationship with God and the new “purpose” that God gave him. Since the album was in active production when Bieber was saved, he managed to get two songs about his relationship with God included in it. (Along with the not-so-godly music he had already written)
Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say, ‘Go listen to all of Bieber’s music since he’s a Christian I don’t even recommend watching the official music videos for his Christian songs since his producers have sexualized the music videos to help cover up the religious themes. Sex sells, and that’s what his producers want. But based on what Bieber has said about sexuality after his salvation, I don’t believe it was his intention for the music video to be the way it is, however, it’s still unacceptable for the video to be this way. Despite this, the time of this album marks a turning point for Bieber, and I think it is worth looking into. We also have to remember that Bieber is a baby Christian at this point and contractually obligated by law to fulfill certain obligations.
As I said, in his Purpose album, Bieber introduces two songs about his relationship with God, one of which is “Purpose,” the song for which the album is named. This song is beautiful, you should listen to it. I’ll even give you a lyric only link to it! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcTjQFwzOlU) In this song, Bieber talks about how easy it is to talk with God, how he is learning a lot from God, how he is saying goodbye to old friends in pursuit of Christ and… Wait, No, I’m not telling you anything more, just listen to it! It’s purely acoustic- no drums, nothing crazy, it’s just piano and Justin Bieber, so there’s no reason not to give it a listen!
The second song in the album about his journey with God is “Life is Worth Living.” which is about how God gives direction, forgiveness, and how Justin himself wants to work on improving himself and his testimony. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e6v8NzSGDA)
Bieber would continue to try to use his fame as an opportunity to tell people about God. In 2017 when Bieber was invited to the “One Love Manchester” Concert, (a concert performed in memory of the victims of a bombing at one of Ariana Grande’s concerts) Justin Bieber stood before 55,000 people and announced to them that “God is good in the midst of the darkness.” and that He “loves you and is here for you.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEe8Dvjz0g0) To me, there is no doubt that Bieber is a changed man. Not a perfect man, but a changed one, one who is slowly becoming a little bit more like the God who saved him.
In 2018, the news went crazy when a video showing Justin Bieber reading the book The Meaning of Marriage, by Pastor Tim Keller was uploaded onto the internet. If you aren’t familiar with the book, it's a Christian book that talks about how the Bible defines a proper marriage, including the importance of saving one's self for marriage. We would later find out in February 2019 from a Vogue interview, that reading this book was part of Bieber’s attempt to get right with God. In the interview, Bieber admitted he had a “legitimate problem with sex” and told Vogue the following:
“He [God] doesn’t ask us not to have sex for him because he wants rules and stuff, He’s like, 'I’m trying to protect you from hurt and pain.' I think sex can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes people have sex because they don’t feel good enough. Because they lack self-worth. Women do that, and guys do that." … “I wanted to rededicate myself to God in that way because I really felt it was better for the condition of my soul. And I believe that God blessed me with Hailey as a result. There are perks. You get rewarded for good behavior,”
Bieber would later tell us that he was successful in his rededication to God and successfully remained celibate from the time he rededicated himself to God until his marriage to Hailey Baldwin in late 2018.
Speaking of Hailey, Hailey Baldwin is another Christian who Justin Bieber has known for quite a while. Bieber began dating Baldwin in 2018, stating that the real connection the two of them had that held them together was church and God. They've both attended the same church since 2014 and first met back in 2009. Although the specific date is not public, Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin got married sometime between September 14th - November 23rd, 2018.
On March 11th, 2019, just this month, Justin Bieber admitted he is currently struggling with depression stating, “Been struggling a lot. Just feeling super disconnected and weird.. I always bounce back so I’m not worried just wanted to reach out and ask for you guys to pray for me. God is faithful and ur prayers really work thanks.” Bieber is still a growing Christian, but he is a Christian and our brother nonetheless. He wants to grow, he wants to be better, and he wants us to pray for his success. So we better start praying!
How Should We Respond to Christians Like Justin Bieber?
Christians like Justin Bieber are Christians who are in the process of growing. They may not have fully matured yet spiritually, but they are steadily making their way to being conformed to the image of Christ. Justin Bieber hasn’t been a perfect example, and he still isn’t perfect, but then again, neither are we!
Everyone I’ve talked to about writing this article has had the same reaction to it. “What? You’re writing about Justin Bieber being a Christian? He’s not a Christian! He can’t be! Someone like Justin Bieber has to just be saying it for attention.” I hope we can all recognize it’s shameful that our attitudes have grown to be this way. This is not a reflection of Christ.
If you recall, I mentioned in part one of this series, “We may see devout believers who want to grow in the Lord as false believers because we are judging them for their spiritual immaturity, past sins, or outward appearances.” and I quoted this verse.
“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.” - 2 Cor. 10:7
In this verse, we are told that believers in the first century doubted Paul could be saved because he actively persecuted and even executed members of the church; however, Paul would become the greatest preacher of his time and would be responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations outside of Israel. Just as with Paul, growing Christians like Bieber struggle with having their past sins and spiritual immaturity determine their acceptance among the Church. These things should not be so.
The truth of the matter is this, that as long as there is still breath in our lungs there is still potential for us to do great things for God, regardless of our past. When we throw growing Christians to the wayside, we are assuming that their faith won’t be strong enough to fight the vices of their past and, when we do this, we also say God is not greater than their temptations. Do not slander our God or belittle our brothers and sisters, I assure you, God’s strength can help them overcome any vice. Listen to what Jesus' Parable of the Sower has to say about this situation,
“A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, … some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.” - Luke 8:6
Here, Jesus tells us that the sower (the one who presents the word of God) planted seeds into the ground (a person’s heart), and it grew (they believed), but despite their initial growth, they withered away (wandered from God) because they lacked moisture (what they need to grow). The souls of the saved need to be watered, they cannot just be neglected. As most of us know, Jesus presented Himself as the Living Water (John 4:10-14), However, what many of us forget, is that in His physical absence from this earth, He gave us the Holy Spirit to fulfill that role so we can continue His ministry.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” - John 7:37-39a
And later in John,
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:” - John 20:21-22
We can water dry souls with the Living Water that lives in us. Just as God sent Jesus to testify, encourage, and teach, He also sends us. We cannot give up on the growing Christian, because God would not give up on them. As our cup overflows with the Holy Spirit, we should water them from our excess. Of course, this is not something we can do if our own lives are not right.
We have to remove our judgmental attitudes, we have to be more like Jesus, to look beyond the outward appearance and love our brothers and sisters. The Spirit groans within me every time I hear a preacher or another Christian say something along these lines. “Yeah you knew he was a real sinner, he was tattooed up, had piercings, gauges in the ears, the whole deal.” As if people are defined by how they appear, and the morality of an individual is determined by the quality of their outward appearance. Hasn’t the Lord reminded us about this enough?
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7
“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.” - 2 Corinthians 10:7
If that last verse sounds familiar, yes, I did use it for the second time in this article. And I’ll keep repeating it because we need to listen to it! So “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” … think again! If God doesn’t look on the outward appearance and looks at the heart than we should imitate that, don’t judge someone who says they are Christian on their outward appearance, look to see if they have fruit, look to see if they shamelessly profess Christ, and look to see if there is spiritual growth.
In a similar vein, it’s easy for us to get stuck in the faulty ideology that being a “good Christian” is about militantly condemning people who sin, or don’t believe exactly the same as us, yet our Lord said to the woman who was caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Clearly, this wasn’t an accident. Jesus didn’t accidentally choose not to condemn. “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) In addition to this, Jesus specifically explains His position on the women caught in adultery in verse 15: “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.” Jesus judged no one, yet had the right to judge everyone. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22) Despite having the divine right to judge, Jesus chose not to use it.
Why then, Christians, are we so quick to judge and condemn, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) Jesus has the right to judge, we ourselves, have no right to do so. We are all sinners, plain and simple. All of us still sin, even if we actively try not to, so for us to judge another person’s sins is hypocritical. It’s like two individuals on death-row for the same crime, one who was pardoned and another who was not. And the pardoned says to the condemned, “Ah you wretched, disgusting man, look at you! You’re a guilty man!” When he himself is just as guilty, but set free by the actions of another. The punishment for all sin is the same, we have the same condemnation as those we judge. How can we not see the error in our judgment?
We cannot continue to have these judgmental attitudes towards growing Christians, the Bible is clear, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” (James 4:11) The presence of these attitudes shows a fundamental flaw in our walk with God. According to the last verse, if we judge others by the law, we aren’t following the law ourselves. This is because the greatest command of the law is to love God and to love others. Our rash condemnation is a violation of the law because we do not correct in love, but rather, in pride. Pride in our own righteous, when our righteousness is not even our own.
“Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” - Romans 3:21-23
[To be Continued]
So today we focused more on the things we are doing that we shouldn’t, and I really don’t want to leave you all hanging on how to fix the problem, but I think I've reached peak maximum length for this article. In the next article, we’ll specifically focus on how we can fix this issue by putting to practice what the Bible teaches us about spiritual encouragement/exhortation. To do this, we’ll look at the life of famous actor Chris Pratt to see how he came to know God and use him as an example of how we should respond to the struggling Christians in our lives. Until then, grace, and peace out.
Featured photo provided by Lou Stejskal