Can someone please tell me how it is a validation of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to extol well-known public figures who are Christians as testimonial evidence? What does it do to the public’s perception of Christianity when these people stumble?
It’s not that it is impossible for people in the public eye, such as athletes, entertainers and business people, to be Christians. But why are we looking for heroes? Does our personal faith rest on such a shaky foundation that we doubt the saving power of Jesus Christ unless we have the testimony of these celebrities to reassure us?
If that is the case, I am afraid that we have something backwards here. Jesus tells us that: “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) These celebrities are receiving the acclaim of the public for something else than their faith. There is always the danger that the applause of the world might become more important to them than the approval of their Saviour.
We make heroes within our Christian circles, too. Someone has led a selfish and sinful life for years, then one day the call of God breaks through to him and he is converted. Soon he begins to receive invitations to tell his story to far away congregations and other Christian gatherings. We love to hear such stories and praise God for His wonderful work. There is a very real danger that the one giving the testimony may feel that he is the one being praised.
A preacher may labour humbly for years in the power and grace which the Holy Spirit gives. Eventually he develops a reputation as a powerful evangelist, a resolver of difficulties, a repairer of the breaches in the church. Well-meaning Christians begin to see him as one with a gift that exceeds all others. Eventually he begins to believe this himself. The Holy Spirit senses that He is no longer the one receiving the honour and begins to withdraw.
Jesus asked: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44)
Someone else may give unstintingly of their money, time and talents, all the while needing the validation that others see and approve. Jesus said: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
On the other hand, there are those who see the dangers lurking everywhere and avoid contributing much effort to the work of the kingdom for fear of becoming lifted up with pride. They consider their reticence to be evidence of humility. It is not.
Every Christian should devote him or her self to working for the cause of Christ as much as time, resources and opportunity will permit. But we must not do it to receive honour from the people around us. Someone has said that there is no limit to the amount of good that one can do, if he doesn’t care who gets the credit. If we are looking to receive some part of the credit, then our efforts will be tainted. Only God is worthy to receive honour.
To go back to the question at the beginning of this post, the example of celebrities and heroes is not a validation of my personal faith. That validation must come from God Himself. “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).