Kanye West has garnered many headlines recently with the release of his new album, “Jesus Is King.” Previously known for his vulgarity and, what some viewed as, blasphemy in his lyrics and proclamations, West now says he is a follower of Jesus. My Facebook newsfeed over the weekend was full of links to his appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, where he promoted his newfound faith and his new album.
Whenever there is a celebrity conversion to the faith, there are many who become so excited about the prospect of a very famous person being a witness for Jesus. They think it will be such a boon to the spreading of the gospel. West’s conversion is producing the same hope in many people.
However, there is grave danger for West, as there has been for earlier celebrities who have embraced Jesus. It seems when someone famous becomes a believer, Christians are ready to send them out into the world to represent Jesus. The truth is that most are not ready. They are not solid enough in their faith to withstand the temptations the Enemy will employ against them. They are babies and need to be protected until they have properly matured.
An interesting fact in the conversion experience of Saul (Paul), is that he immediately began to preach to the Jews in Damascus. As a result, they tried to kill him. So he fled to Jerusalem, where again he began to preach. The results were the same; they attempted to put him to death. And here is the interesting part of the story:
When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:30-31)
Could it have been that Paul was so overzealous in his newfound faith that he was harsh and, perhaps, condemning in his preaching? So much so, he stirred up the Jews to violence by his attitude? Thus, the more mature believers sent him back home to Tarsus where he remained until his faith was sufficiently mature to be more effective, and the new Church was less threatened. Later, the more mature Barnabas went to Tarsus to take him to Antioch where, under his tutelage, Paul began his ministry in earnest.
I remember decades ago the singer B.J. Thomas, famous for the song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from the movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” announced his commitment to Jesus. He began touring as a Christian singer. Later, he complained about how the Christians expected him to be perfect. He felt boxed in by the lofty expectations made of him by believers.
I also remember the excitement of believers when Bob Dylan famously became a Christian in the late ‘70’s and released two albums dedicated to his faith, but it wasn’t long before he began walking back the story of his conversion and retreated back to the Judaism in which he was raised, much to the disappointment of his Christian fans.
Even with long-time believers who are famous or merely greatly admired by those who know them, we tend to expect more of them than they are able to give. Pastors are a prime example. History is full of pastors admired and respected locally and/or nationally whose hidden sins have been uncovered, much to the shock and disappointment of those who looked up to them. My wife and I recently watched a documentary on Russ Taff, a famous Christian singer from the 1980’s. During his illustrious career (he won numerous Grammys and Dove awards), he struggled with alcohol, brought on by deep woundedness during his childhood and the guilt he felt as a struggling believer viewed by his fans as a near perfect one. His career and marriage were nearly destroyed. The expectations along with their human failings is always a dangerous combination for people we look to as saviors.
The problem is our bent is always to look for a human savior. We put our faith in particular people—pastors, celebrities, and friends—instead of Jesus. How many people have been led astray from the faith by the sins of others? How many have been devastated spiritually by the death of a spiritual mentor? And how many of our “saviors” have been negatively impacted by the hope we put in them?
The truth is there is only one Savior. None of our substitutes can measure up to the One and Only. The Israelites sought to exchange the Lord for a human king. Then later, they sought out idols of various kinds. We are, at our core, no different. We’re always prone to look for substitute saviors, and they are always destined to disappoint us.
Thus, we need to confess if we have others in our lives that we look to as saviors. A girlfriend or boyfriend, perhaps? A spouse? A pastor? A friend? A celebrity? They cannot, nor should they, be placed in that role. For their sake and ours, we need to avoid looking to them to save us. Jesus is the only one that we can fully rely on, who is always faithful, and who will never lead us astray. He is, in truth, the only Savior we need.
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture quotations from the New International Version.