Recently, you stated your love for Jesus in the most gentle way. In my opinion, you came across as a man sure yet struggling with his faith. And that is the most honest statement of faith I know. It is us all. “I believe, help my unbelief.” I don’t know you, not the real you. I only know the media-version of you, and honestly, I didn’t follow your story very closely so I only know bits and pieces of that Justin as well. That being said, it might seem strange when I say, “I am proud of you.” I am. I am proud of you for handing your days back over to Christ and doing the hard work of letting Him shape you. It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t comfortable. So I am proud of you.
I am also nervous for you. The reality is, you are under the microscope of fame, and the world will not deal kindly with you. There will be those who pick apart your story for the rest of your life. There will be those, that when you fail, which you will as we all do at times, will throw your Jesus-loving-words back in your face. You have said that you are not going to hold in your faith any longer. You are ready to speak what you believe. There are those who will want you to be quiet.
But, it won’t just be “the world” that rips you to shreds. Unfortunately, many christians will as well. You have a past ridden with mistakes. And despite the fact that each of us has our own past, there will be those who will question your love for Jesus. They will scoff at the idea that you would have the audacity to claim to be one of them. They will roll their eyes at your humble words of faith because they are certain you are working the system for publicity’s sake. And Justin, you also have a future in which you will make mistakes. And despite the fact that we all make mistakes nearly daily, there will be christians who do not hesitate to drag you out of the city gates and stone you.
For that, I am so sorry. As a whole, well, perhaps more so the media-version of the church, has never been good at letting Christ on the cross take on the sins of those in the public eye. But it really isn’t up to us.
Justin, it is true that there will be many hard things, unjust scrutiny, perhaps strained relationships, because of your desire to love Jesus and live as He did. But, for as many christians who will throw stones, there will be many more who will cheer you on in your journey. There will be those who will weep with you in your moments of weakness and celebrate with you when the victory of Jesus is evident in your life. There will be those, who though they don’t understand your life or even your approach to faith, will listen and try to hear your heart beyond the noise of the media.
And Justin, you are right in saying that going to church doesn’t make one a christian any more than going to Taco Bell makes one a taco. But I encourage you to find a church. Churches are full of broken people and so churches are messy. But just as you shared about relationships, “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” It is the same with The Church. We are a mess, at times we are arrogant and stubborn and cruel. But there are many times we are compassionate, sacrificial, filled with grace. It is difficult to love The Church, to love a church. I will be the first to raise my hand on that one. I have had many days in this life where I have wanted to be done with Her. But Jesus loves Her. So, while going to church isn’t what makes you a Christian, a life lived for Jesus is much fuller when lived in community with a church.
Justin, this faith-place you have come to. It is good. I believe your words. I hear an honest love and honest struggle in your sharing. Faith is a quest. It is a long road. Keep walking, resting, and leaning on Jesus. He will sustain you.