Last week, Justin Bieber fans woke up to some unpleasant news. The 19-year-old teen heartthrob was arrested, charged with driving under the influence while drag racing in a Lamborghini and resisting arrest. Oh, by the way…he’s still underage. For the parents of teen girls who dreamed they’d be his “one less lonely girl,” Bieber’s blunder placed him in an ever-growing list of once-positive influences that took a wrong turn and crashed.
But it’s not just the arrest that makes the story so disappointing. Like many other young superstars, he started out wholesome, clean-cut, and from a Christian background. Miley Cyrus was raised in a Christian home and used to wear a purity ring. Katy Perry began her career as a Christian solo artist. Even Britney Spears (to give an example from my high school days) came from a Christian home. Add to that the religious meshing of pop icons like the Kardashians with matriarch Kris Jenner’s church plant, or Kanye West featuring a “White Jesus” in concert to tell fans “you can have a relationship with Jesus, you can talk to Jesus.” And Bieber? He was holding monthly Bible studies with friends a while back. Many of these were likely raised with the same values you’ve instilled in your families. But just when they appear to be on track with their Christian background, they derail.
For your teenage daughter, hearing a celeb call themselves “Christian” can be disappointing, deluding, or downright deceiving.
But stories like these give us an incredible opportunity to engage young women in some important conversations. How can we talk to teenage girls about their own life-directions, especially those who have been raised with a Christian background? How do we discuss these issues with both grace and truth? If I was in high school, here’s what I would’ve needed to hear:
Your background doesn’t equal your identity
You may have been in church since before you can remember. You may have been raised believing the basics of the Christian faith. It’s engrained in you and praise God for that! But no matter how you were raised, your background is not your identity (Matt 7:22-23). The reason so many Christian-raised celebrities turn away from their Christian background is the same reason why so many Christian-raised “non-celebrities” do: They probably don’t personally know Christ for themselves (1 Jn 1:6). Some grow up knowing the facts of the faith, perhaps they prayed a prayer when they were young or got baptized, but they never turned to Christ to save them. Others might have thought Christianity is about changing yourself for a morality system instead of God changing them from the inside out. Either way, if you don’t know Christ, you’ll eventually drift away from the Christian faith.
Have you had a conversion to Christ? Has there ever been a point when you believed what you learned in church for your own life? Do you trust in Jesus? No matter what your religious background, it can’t change your identity one bit. Only God can do that.
Your life proves (or disproves) your label.
It doesn’t matter what you say about yourself. The proof of your label comes out in your life. And your life is the result of your heart. The Bible is uncomfortably clear that there’s no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t love and follow Christ (John 14:15, Rom 6:1-14). In fact, the tests of a believer that God gave us so we can be sure of our salvation all have to do with the condition of our hearts and the results in our lives (check out the entire book of 1 John). That’s because the evidence of being a Christian is about loving God, believing truth, loving others, and living an increasingly faith-filled and obedient life. What has ultimate influence over you? What direction is your life going? Do you love others? Is there evidence of the Holy Spirit guiding and producing obedience in your life? Do you love Jesus? No matter what your Facebook profile says under “religious views,” or how you identify yourself, the proof is in the fruit.
You are not defined by your worst moments
We’ve all gotten off track. James 3:2 says we all stumble in many ways. You are not defined by your worst moments. But you will be known for how you respond to them. Peter flat out denied Jesus. But after, he wept, repented and boldly lived for Him, sharing the gospel to thousands of people without fear. Thomas doubted Jesus. But he turned away from his unbelief and became one of the most courageous in the early church, taking the gospel as far as India. Do you acknowledge your sin, receive the humbling process, and turn towards God? Or do you make excuses, hang onto your pride, and keep running away from repentance? How you respond to God’s discipline and His Word can be one of the clearest pictures of your identity. If you are in Christ, God no longer sees you according to your failures – so neither should you (Rom 8:1, 1 Jn 1:9). Through His grace and forgiveness, you are no longer known by your worst moments.
I personally hope Justin Bieber gets back on track. I really do hope his claim to be a Christ-follower proves to be his identity and not just his background. But more importantly, I hope it provides your family with opportunity to talk about the importance of personal faith, that our labels are proven by our lives, and that we can always have a clean start in Christ.