Every one of us must have, at one point in time, experienced this overwhelming passion and admiration for someone or something. Stereotypically, a lot of men are fans of a sports team, maybe the Golden State Warriors or Manchester United. On the other hand, many women are fans of some popular public figures, celebrities essentially. But this feeling is not restricted to people or even sports teams, many can become fans of various works of art such as movies, comic books or even TV Shows. We all know at least one person who is obsessed with the Marvel franchise, or that person might be you yourself. We would get that exciting feeling when we are able to see these people and/or their works and would keep ourselves updated with their recent stories. We willingly sleep at 4 am to stay up and watch the Manchester derby even though in the morning we need to go to church for Sunday service and as a result, we feel sleepy and unprepared when time comes to be in the presence of the Lord. We voluntarily queue for hours so that we can see Ed Sheeran up close in his concert even though we could have come to a youth fellowship that afternoon. The Manchester derby and Ed Sheeran’s concert have successfully captured, held and won our attention. The question is, what makes us so willing to do all this? What is it about these people or pieces that makes them more enticing than the Lord Himself?
What Do You Value the Most?
It is actually alright to listen to pop music, to be fans of popular actors, singers, movies or sports teams. God made and allowed these things to exist in this world and they are not sinful in themselves, and there are certainly things that we can appreciate about each of these figures as they are also images of God. However, the problem comes when they take our attention away from the Lord. We must ask ourselves why we willingly end up giving our time to these avenues? Why do we choose things that give us short-term pleasure instead of something more precious than that? These people have successfully led us to sin. We have crowned these creatures Lord instead of the Creator. What do we treasure the most?
One of the reasons why we end up choosing worldly pleasures over godly ones is because we do not know the true value of either. It is normal for Christians like us to forsake our weekly youth fellowships for something we see as a once in a lifetime opportunity (eg. concerts, festivals, etc.), and our choices can indicate which one we value more in our lives. What do we prioritise more? Something that gives immediate and temporary pleasure to ourselves, or one that we know is right and gives us eternal joy?
Who do we follow?
We have to acknowledge that each person in the world, each celebrity or public figure, has their own separate way of thinking, worldview or ideology. But they can generally be broken down into two categories, those that are for God or against God. It is generally good for us to enjoy media that presents an ideology or way of thinking that is for God, and oppositely avoid those that are against Him, but why is this?
It is because each artist’s work will inevitably present his/her own worldview, and it can subtly influence how you serve and live your life for God. This influence runs deep but unnoticed, able to change us to be like them, sound like them, do things like them, and most importantly think like them. This is good if the artist in question presents a godly ideology, but more often than not, this is not the case. If you know your favourite artist’s songs are full of curse words or inappropriate lyrics, then you should be uncomfortable following them, and you may consider changing your favourite artist. This is not to say that there is no merit in following those with worldly ideologies. As said before we can certainly learn some things from them, but it is important to remember that these influences exist and can change how we behave.
Similarly, our actions and how we live reflects our own ideologies that have been shaped by the environment as well as the people we spend the most time with. When living overseas and mingling with locals there, we will eventually speak like and do things that they would do and we might even find ourselves forgetting our own mother tongue. The results may not be clear now, but in time, we will know them by their fruits. So, as God has given us the ability to choose, should we not choose to follow things that are in accordance to the Bible?
The Bible says that we must be an imitator of Christ, the perfect man (Hebrews 5:9), but instead we become an imitator of immoral creatures who make no attempt to imitate Christ in their lives. Then, we should ask ourselves, do we love them more than Christ? Are they actually the masters of our lives, dictating whatever we do and think? Should our identity rest on them and not on God? What if others see us not as the image of God, but as the image of our idol?
It is very possible that we must cut ties with whatever we are idolising, before we succumb to the addiction to love and obey them. This level of dedication must be presented to God and not our source of entertainment, whoever or whatever that is. When we make entertainment our god, it will surely be a sin. Bear in mind, that God does not stop being in control of our lives when we make other beings our gods. He was, is, and will always take full control of our lives, no matter what our choice is.
What should be our response?
Being a Christian does not mean that we completely restrict ourselves from the things of this world. It is not as if, when worldly folk go to the cinema we refrain ourselves from going there as well, or when others wear jewelry we ought to avoid them entirely. It is true that we need to be different from the world, but not in this way. God did not prevent us from becoming fans of someone or his/her works of art, neither did He stop us from following whatever that person is doing. As Christians we are not called to be monks that meditate in a land far, far away. Instead, we are commanded to engage with the world and have the right response or approach when admiring these people or things. Firstly, we should pray for God’s mercy so that He gives us the desire for Him more than anything else in this world. Pray so that God can make us alert to things that are from the world that will make us love the world. Truly, it is not by our own strength that we can let go from wayward desires, but it is only by God’s grace that we can get back into the right path (Ephesians 2:8-9). We, as sinners love to fill our lives with things that we love, anything besides God. But as someone who is saved, we are transformed and made to desire God more and acknowledge that He is the master of our lives (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 2:17). We need to remember that Christ has died and risen again together with us, which means that we are now able to say no to sin, all by God’s grace.
This change does not happen instantly, but progressively; it may take some time before we can see that we love having quality time with God, such as in our daily devotions or in prayer, more than anything else. Next, we need to continually examine the things that we like. We are responsible for things that we do, watch, and listen to. Do we glorify God in liking them? Or instead, they bring us further from God? Is the worldview presented by the person/work according to God’s Word? As Christians, this is a question we must ask ourselves and know the answer to. This is in order to fulfil 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV), which says that “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Remember that we are humans living this world, but we are not of the world. What we must seek is God and God alone. If we choose to seek God and make Him the centre of our lives, it will not be in vain.
However, it is not enough for us to have a correct response to celebrities and works of art, we also need to have the right approach when we become a fan of someone or something. In his book ‘Redeeming Pop Culture: A Kingdom Approach’, T.M. Moore wrote that there is a need for a biblical approach to popular culture. It is by having a missiological element in our approach to pop culture, as in our reaction to it allows us to more easily engage with others. An example of this was with me and my friend, we were both fans of Chris Evans, however we manifested our appreciation for him differently. One day she asked me why I did not want to attend his meet and greet session, citing it as a rare chance and a once in a lifetime event. I then explained that I had youth fellowship during the same time, that I’ve already made a commitment and how I saw this fellowship as a once in a lifetime chance as well. She replied by saying: “Well, you come to church every Sunday. It is okay to miss one session, there’ll be next week. Something like this won’t be available next week.” This sort of scene may be familiar to you, it may have happened not too far from today. Here, we are given a choice to choose and by choosing to hear God’s Word and commune with His people, we may perhaps show others how important that is to us, even more important than a chance to meet celebrities or be among the first to watch a movie.
Of course, this does not automatically mean that it is correct to choose to come to youth fellowship and that any other alternative is sinful. But it is interesting how we regard these events as ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities, while fellowship with other Christians and learning the Word of God are not; we regard these events as less important to us and by extension, it may signal how we see the Word of God. Keep in mind, there are times where there is an urgent need coinciding with church activities, and where it would be more important to choose to attend these urgencies instead. If, for example, there were to be an exam at the same time of a church youth event, or your friend or relative had just been admitted to the hospital on the same day, it might actually be more sinful if you did decide to come to the youth event; it shows irresponsibility in God’s calling for you to be a good student or brother/sister. Every Christian needs to make a scale of priorities, which event or action is more important and which one is not. If we were to choose fellowship over fan meetups, our motivation to come should be one that seeks God’s relationship and His Word as well as wanting to glorify Him as best as we can. To come to them merely to appear obedient would be living a life of legalism. The most important aspect is not about how we are wrong when we skip religious activities or how we are right when we attend them, but do we truly seek to have a relationship with God or not?
Through this, we can do our Christian calling which to tell the gospel of Christ and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20). It is not only a calling for particular people in the faith, but for all those who call themselves a newborn Christian. By having the same interests as other people, it makes us easier to talk to them, to insert Christian values in our conversations and later on to share the gospel of Christ to them. To get that truth and the good news out to them, to be the salt and light of this world, to partake in the coming of the Kingdom of God in this world, so that through us, His name alone is glorified (Matthew 5:16). (PS)