I have no idea what percentage of what I read about you in the news is true, but since I assume at least some of it is, we need to talk. Allegedly accosting a neighbor who objected to wild driving in your neighborhood, requiring hospitalization after collapsing (we’ve all seen this before with young celebrities; you can bet we’re filling in our own allegations), allegedly cheating (contrary to what you may have heard, cheating does not require full-on intercourse) on young Miss Gomez, allegedly attempting to attack photographers; the list is long, and any one of these alleged indiscretions – if true – would be alarming in any young person. The real problem, however, arises with other allegations about you: you are alleged to be an evangelical.
When you claim to be one of us, I believe you. I believe that you love Jesus, and I believe that you want to receive his blessing at the end of your days. But – real talk – I don’t think you have a clue what to do between now and then. I’m not trying to call you a hypocrite; you’re young and you appear to be lost.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, you understand, if you’d never made your faith a central portion of your public persona. But you did, Justin. You did. And now you appear to be both the world’s most famous young evangelical (with apologies to Mr. Tebow), and the male Lindsay Lohan. Which makes your problems a problem for all of us in the evangelical camp, if only because we never hired you to be our spokesperson and consequently have no way to terminate the arrangement. Since we’re stuck with you, however, I hope you’ll be willing to read some advice (spread across two letters) from an evangelical brother.
Since you’re young, rich, and live in Southern California, I assume your ears are filled with the voices of apologists telling you that nobody can tell you how to live your life. They say to experiment and experience all that life has to offer while you’re young; that’s part of living life to the fullest. You have it all, and you should enjoy it. What’s more, those of us who would presume to advise you about your life don’t know you, don’t understand your life’s pressures and struggles, and can’t see your heart. Only God can judge you, and since you aren’t hurting anyone, you’ll be fine.
For the record, Justin, the people telling you these things are fools. Not in the pop-culture sense, mind you. Real fools. The type the Bible holds up as the opposite of the wise. Their advice to you manifests such a complete dearth of understanding about life – both this life and the next – that most of us here in the evangelical community – you know, the people who can’t fire you – are speechless.
There are always two paths before us, Justin, and the man visible in the news stories above (or YouTube videos, for those who don’t mind your pottymouth) is not on the path Jesus would choose. You see, the difference between the path you appear to be taking and the one you should be taking is vision. You’ll have to account for what you’ve done with what you’ve been given, and vision is the preparation for that audit. Unfortunately, at present you’re woefully unprepared, but now isn’t the time to talk about that (we will in the second letter), because you aren’t ready for vision yet. There are actually four steps that I think you should take in preparation for vision. Implement this advice, and I promise you vision will come.
Firstly, Justin, choose to be teachable. The worst people on earth are people who don’t think they have anything to learn from anyone. The fact is, you do have things to learn. I don’t know what all of them are (though obviously, I think this letter is a good start), but the important thing is to recognize that you don’t either. So make the decision that you’re going to learn from the people you meet. Your money and fame are a unique handicap in this regard; it will be easy to surround yourself with people who want only to take from you rather than give something back into your life. Find people from whom you can learn, and make sure you do it.
For another thing, go to church. I’ve seen the interview in which you said you didn’t need to go to church in order to be a Christian, and your logic is total bollocks. You don’t need to go to church in order to believe in Jesus; you were right about that, and I’m glad you claim to be reading your bible and praying. But you do need to go to church in order to follow Jesus, because church is where the people who’ve devoted their lives to understanding and following Jesus gather and teach one another. If you aren’t there, you can’t learn from people who’ve walked with Him for decades, and that’s a handicap that’s almost impossible to overcome. So after you’ve decided to become teachable, get to the place where you’ll learn the most important things.
Of course going to church will be a challenge, because you’re famous and will attract a crowd that may cheapen your experience and distract from the worship of others. Even so, stop making excuses. There’s a church for you somewhere, if you actually want one. Attending a small church would make it harder for the paparazzi to harass you, plus the small number of members would likely embrace you for you rather than for the status of attending church with Justin Bieber. That’s just how small churches work. If that doesn’t work out, however, bear in mind that many solid churches struggle to attract young people. What that means, Justin, is that there are churches that could enrich your life filled with old people who’ve never heard of you. Find one and go.
Finally, the last preparatory step to acquiring vision is perhaps the most obvious: if you want a vision, ask God for one. We often lack things because we fail to ask for them, and vision is far too important not to ask for it. When you ask, I’m confident God will answer. Not necessarily through an audible voice or an out-of-body experience, understand. It will probably come, in fact, from something your newly teachable ears hear from someone else – maybe even at church. As long as you’ve been asking.
There are other things I want to tell you, but to be honest, if you follow these four steps, you won’t need me to. As for what comes next, I’m putting that in a letter that will follow this one in a few days.
Talk to you soon,