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Heather Tomlinson says its not easy for Bear Grylls, Sally Phillips and Justin Bieber to be public about their faith
It takes guts to talk about your faith with people who are not Christians. You’re risking rejection, mockery, even friendships sometimes.
So every time a famous Christian is really open and honest about their faith, I think we should celebrate them, because they have a lot more to lose than a friendship and a bit of pride.
TV adventurer Bear Grylls is the figurehead for the new rebooted Alpha course, which thousands of churches are starting right now across the country. He’s on the posters and in the promo video. Grylls has talked about his faith before (and even prayed for President Obama on TV), but doing something this explicit takes guts. He admitted that fronting Alpha has made him anxious:
A little nervous of this but I know my Christian faith & good friends have quietly helped me thro many tough times https://t.co/r24uEAuGMm— Bear Grylls (@BearGrylls) September 1, 2016
I think it probably takes more guts for Bear Grylls to team up with Alpha than it does to do his madcap escapades on the TV. Why? Well, celebrities depend on their public image for their career and therefore their income. Many people who work in the NHS or similar won’t share their faith because they could lose their jobs – and this could potentially be the case for some celebs. So good on them when they do.
Or take Justin Bieber. The biggest pop star in the world has been remarkably open about his newly discovered Christian faith (read the full story here). He regularly posts Bible verses on his Instagram feed, takes reporters who interview him to church and even covers worship songs at his gigs.
Sally Phillips, the comedian who plays Shazza in the Bridget Jones film series, hesitated to talk about her faith at first. However she’s become more open in recent years, as she was in a recent issue of Premier Christianity magazine. She's also used her fame to advocate for Down’s Syndrome children, and argue against aborting them – to some rather baffling public opposition.
If us ordinary folk think it would damage our street cred to talk about Jesus, or cause others to gossip or talk badly about us – how much more to lose if you're famous with thousands or millions potentially mocking you?
The risks to a celeb’s career are real. Before devout Catholic Jim Caveziel took the role of Jesus in the famous film The Passion of the Christ, director Mel Gibson warned him that it could wreck his career: and he’s quoted as saying that it did lead to fewer parts being offered to him.
Perhaps God brought these celebrities to their position in order to be a mouthpiece to a world that listens little to vicars?
Perhaps God brought these celebrities to their position in order to be a mouthpiece to a world that listens little to vicars and street preachers, but idolises celebrity and glamour? That doesn’t negate that it involves sacrifice and takes guts.
So can we follow their lead, and talk about our faith in public? Can we risk friendships and street cred and even career, to tell others of how much Jesus loves them?
In recent years the Church has focused a lot on love in action – caring for the poor and other social justice issues. That’s great, but it’s the kind of thing that’s usually admired by the secular world. We know we’re probably going to get the praise of men rather than their mockery, when we’re working with the homeless or suchlike. But to share the gospel is the ultimate act of love.
I think it often seems harder to talk about our faith before we do it, than when we take the plunge. I find that people are often actually interested in what you have to say. Of course some will look down on you and reject you. But whatever the consequences, taking the risk in order that someone else can hear of God’s love, has to be worth it.
Unbelievable? presenter Justin Brierley blogs on all things theology, apologetics and ethics.