If you recall our last post in the “Practical Christianity” series, “The Usability Principle,” then you know that we talked about how God has the ability to use anyone to accomplish His purpose regardless of that person’s past or current situation. This series of articles is a continuation of that thought with a focus on the practical application of the Usability Principle in our interactions with other Christians.
Most of us would easily accept the truth of the statement, “God can use anyone,” but when it comes to actually living like we believe it, we can often find ourselves living contrary to it. When it comes to accepting that we can be used by God, many of us are quick to forgive ourselves and move beyond our past mistakes. However, when it comes to accepting that others can be used by God, we can easily become judgmental and condemning. Out of all the Christians whose reputations suffer because of this attitude, one group is much more likely to be a victim of it than everyone else, and that is, famous Christians. In this short series, I would like to see how the Bible says we should respond in this situation, look at some famous Christians and what they are trying to do for Christ, and see what we can do to help their cause.
What the Bible Says About How We Should Treat Other Believers
First, as any good Christian study would do, let’s see what the Bible says about our topic. Since we are talking about famous Christians, we must look at passages that inform us on how to interact with our fellow believers. So how does the Bible say we should treat our fellow Christians? One of the things Jesus emphasized in the moments leading up to His betrayal was how He desired to see His followers treat each other. When Jesus was closing the last supper He left his disciples with a specific instruction, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35-36) Here Jesus tells His disciples their most important requirement for reaching the world, to “Love one another.” It is the way that others can know that someone is truly a follower of Christ.
We are not known by our ability to refrain from sin, because we are fallen beings and will continue to sin despite our best efforts to do good. We are not known by our ability to speak the mystery of the Gospel, because we are to present the gospel in humility. As Paul says, “when I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” And after this he encourages us, “ your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-2,5) We are not known by the title, “Christian,” that we place upon ourselves since Jesus says, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 7:21) No, it is by this that everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples: that we love one another.
It is for this reason I am writing this series. We have truly failed to show that we are Christians through our treatment of other believers. Judgment and pride have blinded our eyes to the point many of us have failed to see the beam of judgment protruding from our eyes.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt 7:1-3)
When Paul encourages the church of Corinth to cleanse itself “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” he adds his love when he says, “I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.” (2 Cor 7:1,3) Brothers and sisters, this is how we ought to respond to our fellow believers sin, not in condemnation, but in such love that our hearts die with their heart’s failure and our hearts find life in their heart’s success. If we do not do this, we will fail to show that we are Christ’s disciples.
Does that mean we shouldn't correct sin and turn our eyes away from blatant rejection of God's moral teachings? No, God forbid! But remember, believer, “mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13) and Jesus himself said to the women caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) If God’s reaction to sin is not to condemn, but to correct the individual in love and send them away forgiven, then that should be our first response as well! In fact, in Mat 6:15 Jesus says, “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This verse doesn’t say the trespasses are necessarily against us! (trespasses literally meaning trip-ups/side-steps) If we keep a judgmental attitude and aren’t gracious with others then God isn’t going to be gracious to us either! “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” (Pro 24:16) So just because someone continues to fall, it does not necessarily mean he does not personally take God seriously, but that he could simply need more support and encouragement from his spiritual family.
So this is the Biblical background for the series I am presenting to you today, I propose that we as a whole have failed to properly love our brothers and sisters. Although the famous ones are not the only ones who have been wronged, I will focus on them because they are the ones both you and I can recognize. There are likely believers in your church or community that have been given up on or ignored due to their personal struggles with sin or outward appearance. But remember, “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (2 Cor 10:7) 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.
“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)
People even doubted Paul’s sincerity because of his past but look what he did! We must not let our condemnation blind our eyes. We all sin against these people when we doubt their salvation and give up on them by failing to pray for them, encourage them, or lovingly correct them. “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13) By withholding our encouragement to these believers while we give them our condemnation, we push them toward the pathway of sin and the rejection of God. These things ought not to be!
Before we move to the next articles in the series in which we will be looking at famous Christians, let me share a word of wisdom that my mother often gave to me growing up. It should help us have the right attitude going into the discussion, so here it is:
“We all sin, it’s just that some of our sins are more noticeable than others. All of us are only one bad choice away from being in the situation of the person that we are judging.” - My Mom
Famous Christians have so many eyes on them, and that makes their mistakes easy to see and, as a result, easier to judge them for. But despite this, we must work hard to ensure we do not judge them so harshly. If all our sins were out in the open, we would likely find ourselves in a similar situation. We all need to have an understanding and uplifting heart in our lives, so thanks Mom for instilling that quote in me at a young age.
In specifically dealing with rich people, (which is what famous people are), Jesus said this, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24) or as I would translate it based on the tense of the Greek words, “Do you see how those who have riches will enter into the Kingdom of God with difficulty?” You see, riches make being a Christian harder, it makes the Christian life truly difficult. You think you have struggles with temptation? Rich and famous people have it infinitely worse. They have fans offering themselves to them all the time, money to get into any vice they want, and the ability to pay away a lot of sins consequences. I could list more but I think you get the point. The average Christian is somewhat bound from opportunities to sin because of the potential fallout that can be caused by their choices, however, famous people are somewhat expected to abuse their fame and it's the norm. They can make mistakes and not have it affect their career in a major way. Being a Christian and being famous is difficult. Is that an excuse for their sin? No, not at all, but we also shouldn’t judge them so harshly, instead, we should encourage them to do right, lovingly correct them, and understand that their temptations are a real struggle, just as ours are.
In the articles that follow, we will be specifically looking at Tim Tebow, Justin Bieber, and Chris Pratt’s Christianity. Wait, guys! Don’t close the article yet! You may think I’m way off base with the last two, but at least give the next articles a read to see what both I and they have to say about it before you make up your mind! (Remember, don’t judge the outward appearance!) Hopefully, through this short series, we can learn a whole lot about supporting our fellow believers, being understanding of where they come from, and encouraging them on their journey to be transformed to the image of Christ.