Less than a day ago, news broke that superstar Justin Bieber turned himself in to Toronto police after assaulting a limo driver in December. The headline came only a week after Bieber was found DUI in Florida, and it seemed to top off a pivotal year in the 19 year-old’s life. 2013 included numerous allegations of cheating on his on/off girlfriend Selena Gomez, walking out of a strip club and a brothel and his reported graffiti rampage when staying at a hotel in Australia. Oh, and then there was the release of an album, his second movie and a fragrance; but the success of these seems to pale in light of this young man’s exploits, indeed to say that the Biebs has had a big year would be putting it mildly.
We don’t know what the circumstances of Bieber’s most recent charge were. Official reports say, "In the course of the altercation, a man struck the limousine driver on the back of the head several times.” But can we really understand what was going on in the teenagers head at the time? His actions showed a chaotic and destructive amount of anger, but who are we to guess what triggered this in him?
Fact: Justin Bieber is a Christian. Reading through his autobiography and learning more about his steep climb to success, it becomes apparent that Bieber grew up in a loving family. So of course when he became a pin up pop star and money making machine, everyone expected, or at least hoped, he would stick with these values. Yet here we are 4 years later and the bowl haired, baby faced kid singing ‘Baby’ has admitted himself in to the police after acting out in anger.
It goes without saying that the church has responded in anger to Bieber. Aside from dealing with the tall poppy syndrome that followed every step of his high top sneakers, he has dealt with a barrage of accusations from people questioning his religious values, his influence, what he consumes and where, how he treats those closest to him and how he treats his fans. Heck, every time the kid gets another tattoo we all freak out. And I’m not just talking about everybody else, I’m talking about myself. As someone who works within the media, I get continually frustrated when I see celebrities fail to live up to their potential. I feel angry and start to judge these young people who I realistically know nothing about.
And so I have found myself in what I call the Irony of the Bieber: he acts out, this time in anger; and as a member of the public I respond in anger. With this, I finally realized a crucial fact: if I am to accuse the Biebs of being a hypocrite and respond to him in anger, aren’t I participating in this game of hypercriticism even more than perhaps he is? As a follower of Christ, aren’t I called to love others- especially my brothers and sisters who are struggling?
So does that mean we should allow Bieber and others to participate in activities not aligning to their claimed faith? Should we remain silent and let them represent Christ in a light so contradictory to the Word? Of course not! We should be concerned and even angry when the Christ we love and follow is stained in such a way by anyone, including ourselves. We see this best when Christ, furious at the behaviour of the merchants within the temple, took the time to create a whip and then turn over the tables they were using as they defiled his Father’s house (Matthew 21:12). Evidently anger is not always a bad thing- so how do we know when to respond in anger and when to respond in love?
In the past my response to Bieber’s current situation would have been judgemental and angry, and in some ways I would say this is justified. Yet I also see that Christ only acted on his feelings of anger when they were in alignment with the will of God. If I start crusading against the Biebs being ‘holier than thou’ to a kid I’ve never met and who has experienced pressure’s I will never understand, I don’t think I’m doing the equivalent of turning tables in righteous anger. In fact, I think I’m probably just as good as one of the merchants standing behind them.
Recently a friend of mine posted this enlightening status on Facebook:
I WANT TO PUNCH JUSTIN BIEBER IN THE FACE AND THEN APOLOGIZE TO HIM, BECAUSE VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE ANSWER. LIFT YOUR GAME PEOPLE.
I am convicted by this response to show my anger in love. Let us be disappointed and sad at the news of Justin Bieber’s struggles. Let us talk about what it means to be a follower of Christ and how we must abstain from certain behaviours and actions in light of this. But we shall also remember to respond in love to the Biebs, who being an imperfect human like us needs to know that he still matters very much to the same God he grew up knowing.
This was published on Apropos Walk. Many thanks to Nath Rooke for his social media contribution to this piece.