15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
~Romans 6:19 NIV~
One of the hardest things I’ve dealt with since I’ve been trying to follow Christ has been whether or not to continue to promote some of the writing I did when I was still away from God. I started writing my mystery series, The Rona Shively Stories, in 2006 when I was still living a life apart from Christ. I was basically a back-slidden Christian, but one who didn’t realize why it was important to live a life that pleases God. Although I had gone to church regularly during my teen years, I had little understanding of what a relationship with Christ really meant. That wasn’t what I’d been taught when I went to church. For me, the purpose of church had been to offer myself up for a good tongue-lashing once a week so that I could be reminded through the sermons that I was a pitiful sinner, then I could enjoy some good music and the occasional potluck dinner. I didn’t think there was more to it than to show up and try to fit in with the others who had already gotten good at showing up. Even though I’d heard the stories about Jesus, I never made the connection to how they applied to me. I had no clue that Jesus had presented Himself for crucifixion on my behalf and that the whole purpose of this was so that I could enjoy a life that God created especially for me. He sent Jesus to die for me so that I could live out the story He had written for me without living under a cloud of condemnation and sin. And when I received that, it then became my responsibility to live that life in a manner that would be pleasing to Him.
So the question becomes, if He gifted me to be a writer, should I continue promoting the writing that I believe fails to glorify Him? What I mean by this is that my mystery series started out showcasing a very crass, very opinionated, and very promiscuous female Private Detective. She cursed like a sailor, she had affairs out of wedlock, she had a terrible attitude and she had absolutely no foundation in Christ. The one redeeming quality she had was that she had a conscience and she really wanted to help people in bad situations. At her core, she was a good person trapped inside a brokenhearted sinner. At her core, she was basically the person I had been and as time progressed, she changed just as I have. And now, by the writing of my seventh book in this series, she has actually been trying very hard to clean up her act and develop a relationship with Christ. She’s struggled through many life challenges, mostly those involving the loss of significant relationships. She has not yet learned how to fully lean on God, but she’s getting closer to solving that mystery every day. Is all of this transformation enough to justify showing all of the ugly to those who might pick up the series for the first time with the expectation that they are reading something written by a writer who professes to be a Christian?
The question comes up even more often for me now as I deal with my daughter’s ever-broadening interest in music. Recently, she’s picked up the habit of wanting to watch music videos on Youtube and she’s basically hooked on the music that is popular to the young kids these days. Some of which I allow, some of which I simply won’t. The dilemma comes when you see artists like Justin Beiber or Katy Perry, who have professed at one point or another to be Christian, but whose music and behavior doesn’t always match up with that declaration. Or maybe the artist presents themself as kid-friendly at first, but then decides that they also need to cater to a more adult audience. While I appreciate the musical talents of these individuals, I don’t fully appreciate the fact that they are in a position where they have become role models to our youth but yet, sing about things that ‘tweens and teens should not be doing or seeing. For example, one Katy Perry video that I watched depicted the girl waking up after having a wild party where there was a lot of drinking and it was implied that there may have been some sexual activity.
Not that I’ve never seen these things before, but it’s a very different matter when my nine year-old daughter picks this video out to watch based on the fact that she likes Perry’s other music. The music that basically hooked her didn’t have the same message as songs like this one, but because the artist seemed safe enough she found herself looking at something she didn’t understand and then having to reconcile the image she had of this artist with what this particular video depicted. Thankfully, I don’t let her watch videos unless I am right there looking over her shoulder so that I can answer any questions she might have. This one brought lots of questions and basically resulted in my making the decision to remove her as an artist that my daughter is permitted to follow. Even if Perry doesn’t still consider herself to be a Christian, she still needs to be remember that there are a large number of young girls who are watching her every move and modeling their behavior after hers. This isn’t her fault and it isn’t necessarily her responsibility to direct those girls to model their behaviors appropriately, but people of great influence seem to only want to fade into the background when they face criticism for any negative impact they may be having on others. Not so much when everyone loves what they are doing.
Whether they asked to be role models or not, they still need to be more responsible about the music they perform if they are, in fact, attempting to portray themselves as entertainers who are also Christians. Understanding that they may be suffering through the same dilemma that I’ve been dealing with; the desire to put out work that more accurately reflects God’s glory, but needing to promote what they’ve already done out of respect for their craft. In essence, trying to decide between our God and our gift. The answer is really clear, but the action doesn’t always come so easily.
The answer is that if we are truly followers of Christ, we understand that He has forgiven us for our sins and that He loves us without end. Our part in this is that once we understand what He has done for us; the impact of a love so all-encompassing, so freeing, so enduring, that we would begin to set aside all of the things in our lives that conflict with our presenting a clear reflection of Him in all that we do. That process takes longer for some than for others depending upon how far away we have gotten from Him. When we are buried under mountains of sinful behavior, it can be difficult to think we could ever emerge with any sense of pride or joy. Sometimes it’s just easier to “go with the flow” and continue being the person everyone has known us to be. To continue to fit in with those who don’t believe that anyone including God could ever love them sometimes seems easier than making the changes necessary to set us back on the right path to salvation. It’s true, life often seems to be easier if we just continue to stay entrenched in behaviors that limit our potential. But God made us for a purpose and that purpose was not to spend every free moment looking for our next high; whether that be through alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or other means. We were meant to reach out to one another in love and help each other through the challenges we face as human beings through reflecting God’s love and reminding one another of God’s promise of an everlasting life for those who receive His gift of salvation. We will undoubtedly make mistakes as we try to do the right thing. And more often than not, we’ll do things that we know we shouldn’t do. Even when we have been trying to be “good” and live our lives for Christ. Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect; it only means that we understand His perfection and we honor Him in our attempts to be more like the One who has already shown us a love that cannot be matched by anyone or anything this world has to offer us.
I don’t personally know any of the entertainers who call themselves Christians, but I do know that in such positions of power they must exercise some degree of responsibility to those who are watching them. So while entertainers such as Justin Beiber and Katy Perry struggle publicly to decide whether or not they are going to model His perfection or strive to display their own, I’m still praying about whether or not it is possible for me to accurately depict through my writing one woman’s ongoing transformation from a sinner to a saint. The journey is the thing, but unless the writer makes a conscious effort to ensure that what they write doesn’t glorify the worst in us, then the gift no longer comes from God. If we’ve ever loved our God, we must remember Him in the way we display who He is in us to the world. If you represent Him, then represent Him. No one really wants to follow us…we’re all lost.
~1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV~