On December 31, 2020, I finished my bible reading plan in Revelation. This passage piqued my interest.
Only bow before God.
John had just fallen at the feet of the angel who had shown him the visions that comprise Revelation. The angel responded: “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophesy is to give a clear witness for Jesus. (Revelation 19:10) The angel’s words are much like Peter’s in the book of Acts when Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet in reverence: But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” (Acts 10:26)
We are to only worship God, not people.
I am saddened by the recent increase in resignations, firings and investigations of immoral behavior involving famous men within the body of Christ. In processing what has happened, I can’t help but think about us, the church.
This post is about us, their brothers and sisters.
Has the church played a part in allowing celebrity status, which in turn increases both the amount and strength of temptation for the person who is favored? I am wondering.
We create favored people.
I can’t help but think about James 2:9: But if you show favoritism, you sin… I believe the church is fully capable of favoring speakers and authors over administrative and maintenance staff, and can do so in grand style. We place the faces of our famous ones on magazine covers and we join their massive following on social media. We create marketing strategies to fill stadiums and create expectations that our favored person will not disappoint a packed-house of people who have often purchased tickets and expect to get their money’s worth. We have allowed fame in the church, and in so doing, have allowed the pressure of fame to exist in the church.
Life without fame is hard enough.
We all know the Spirit-filled strength required to die to self each moment of every day in order to tame the tongue (as much as possible), love the unkind child and extend grace to the annoying neighbor. Life without fame takes intention and ruthless effort to either refuse sin in the first place or repent of sin afterward.
Now add fame.
I am not certain our limited human bodies were ever meant to handle being inundated with messages from around world via the internet. Every one of us contends with people-pleasing tendencies, but imagine going to the grocery store and having your personal information and images on the phone of everyone who passes you by in the cereal aisle! I wonder if we have placed back-breaking pressure on the backs of a favored few. When all eyes are falling reverently on a person and he or she also has the wealth to fuel a false sense of power, do we play a part in the making of someone who is deceived into thinking they are above the law or are capable of creating a hiding place for sin? Every one of us “normal” people fights such deception even without the fame and wealth. Imagine everything magnified.
What are the signs?
We don’t physically fall prostrate at people’s feet today in America, but I think the church allows bowing down in other forms. Here are some things I have been considering:
- Are some less accountable? Each of us is commanded to maintain a careful examination of every brother and sister, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). None of us wants to be “that person” who blows the whistle and takes down a man connected to an “empire.” Do we reveal a bowing down when our knee-jerk reaction to allegations is, “not him,” and we don’t examine things carefully because the allegations are coming from a “nobody”?
- Are some vying for their name in lights? I remember watching a Christian concert a few years ago and the artist had his name in lights on the stage. I remember praying, “Lord, I don’t want my name in lights. Just yours.” Are we bowing when we allow a person’s name in a ministry title?
- Are some more revered? Is there a hush when some people enter a room? “He’s here.” Do we act differently at meetings when the favored person isn’t there? Is our inconsistent behavior a form of bowing down?
- Are some exempt from serving? Do our organizational and social structures develop leaders who never stoop, as in never traveling coach, never getting his or her hands dirty, never greeting a stranger “off the clock” or never bending down to clean up a spill? Our Savior washed the feet of His disciples, so if we can develop a leader that is comfortable with others bowing low but he or she never has to, that may be a sign.
- Are some allowed unusual privilege? Does the church bow down and allow special privileges for a favored person that do not even appear on the standard menu of options available for any other paying customer? Does the church allow financial arrangements to handle matters instead of the confession and repentance required by everyone else?
I repent of my part.
I did not cause any of the recent famed men to sin, but my eyes have been opened to the potential of the church to foster celebrity status just like the world does, heaping enormous amounts of additional pressure to live a godly life on some that exceeds the pressure God expects from you and me. I think I also see a system that holds some people less accountable for a holy life than others. In so doing, the body of Christ has not only allowed the sin to occur in the first place, but also allowed it keep occurring through lack of accountability. (And we all know unaddressed sin grows larger and darker.)
I re-commit to helping all people to live a life worthy of the glorious name of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I will not worship a brother or sister who testifies about their faith in Jesus. I will worship only God.
God, forgive us each our part.
Picture Explanation: What January looks like in my home. I take the Christmas decorations down but keep the winter decorations up for a while longer.
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