Whenever a celebrity claims to be a Christian, we make a huge deal about it. While there’s nothing wrong with being glad a famous person has come to Christ (duh), there’s a risk to it too. Our desire that a famous person would really be one of us can blind us to warning signs that they’re not a true Christian. On the other hand, of course, we can be over-discerning and dismiss someone who is genuinely saved and has much to learn, because they aren’t as mature in Christ as we are. Neither of these stances is very helpful. What we need to do is take a balanced approach; neither writing someone off prematurely, or unquestioningly embracing them because they claim to be one of us.
The first and most important thing to look for is the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lays out in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Obviously, we shouldn’t expect to see them perfectly, but when someone is saved they should increasingly show the fruit of the spirit. That goes for normal people and celebrities.
Another important sign to look for is repentance and contrition. For some this may be more obvious than for others, but it should be evident. An actor who made pornographic movies before they were saved won’t make them anymore after salvation. The politician who lied, leaked, and slandered his way into office will start to tell the truth, guard information entrusted to him, and not defame others. You get the idea; there will be radical transformation when someone comes to Christ.
Be very wary of the supposed convert who twists scripture to validate a sinful lifestyle. A true Christian will desire to submit to Christ and, while they certainly won’t do it perfectly, they will strive to bring their life into line with His will. This will take time to do, of course; sanctification is a life-long process, but if there is no desire or effort to change, be very wary.
The most important thing in evaluating a celebrity convert, however, is time. Jesus Himself warned that false converts may be enthusiastic at first, in Matthew 13:5, part of the parable of the soils. The true test of the legitimacy of someone’s faith, be they a celebrity or not, is whether or not they continue in the faith. This is why we don’t make new converts, even famous ones, into our representatives. They need, like any new convert, to be educated in doctrine and have time to grow in the faith.
To put it simply, while we want celebrities to be saved (because we want everyone to be saved) we need to exercise caution and not immediately hold them up as model Christians. At the same time, we should pray that their conversion is genuine and extend the grace and (if we have the opportunity) discipleship that we would to any new believer. In other words, treat them like you would any new convert.
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