It’s tough to be a Christian in a post-Christian world. I’m actually surprised that people are surprised how tough it is (try saying that 5 times fast). We have been lulled into a false sense that we are the norm, that we are individuals in a group comprised of anyone who is anyone. There is truth, at least in the past, to the notion that anyone who was anyone had a connection to the Christian way of life. In a society that was developed around Christian morals and practices why would anyone risk their reputation by aligning themselves with anything else?
Times have changed and continue to change.
We no longer live in a country that views its actions through a biblical lens. For some there is lament and mourning over the loss of biblical influence on the actions of those around them. Others live in fear and anger as they see the potential persecution of those who embrace biblical values. Still others alter their doctrine to match the new world morality, accepting what was once evil as good and what was once forbidden as the natural response to our personal leanings and tendencies. For the rest, to tolerate the existence of other world views is no longer enough but instead, acceptance to the point of embracing its legitimacy is the required reaction for all points of view. To be anyone who is anyone you cannot risk your reputation by aligning yourself with anything but these new societal norms.
Appearance isn’t always what it appears to be.
Groomed reputations consisting of the perfect amount of public exposure mixed with well-placed visits to lend support to this cause or that charity, creates the appearance of a caring and contributing member of society. Big screen, little screen, bouncing a ball to hitting it, reporting the news to making it, appearance is a meticulously plotted course that sells the person’s brand to the largest number of people. It isn’t about what they personally believe but about what they want you to believe about them. Call me cynical but people aren’t always what they appear to be. When it comes to those in the public eye, how they appear isn’t always what it appears to be but it is who they want you to believe they are.
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:9-19 (NIV)
By applying some modern world observations I can make the assumption that this was an incredible boost to the morale of those who had become followers of The Way. The superstar, the local celebrity, the one who commanded the attention and adoration of his fans had become a Christian just like them. I have no insight into what Simon the Sorcerer actually believed but I can say with some certainty that his belief was influenced by anyone who was anyone, becoming a Christ follower. His reputation as the “Great Power of God” was definitely in jeopardy as long as he and this new power were not on the same team; so he joined the team. It wasn’t long before his desire to be at the top, the local celebrity who demanded attention and adoration, drove him back to his old ways. He was willing to pay for God’s free gifts so that he could groom his reputation and increase his fame.
A pre-Christian world sorcerer’s spell in our post-Christian era.
It seems to be cool to be a Christian again, well at least for some people in some situations with some limitations. Politicians, professional athletes and celebrities are having their come to Jesus moments. Sometimes it’s damage control, while other times it’s a lifeline in rehab. Some are acts of desperation and some are true attempts to discover something bigger. It doesn’t seem to matter why they make their new found faith public; whenever someone who is a somebody says they are a Christian we get a boost to our morale. In our excitement over someone famous announcing that they are a Christ follower, we forget to question if they really have embraced the new life and left the old behind. The actions of Simon revealed his old life was still what he wanted. The actions of our politicians, the behaviour of star athletes and the moral values promoted by celebrities reveal which life they truly embrace regardless of what they say. The next time you hear that someone who is a somebody has become a Christian remember that someone who is a nobody has become a Christian too. Neither makes your personal faith more legitimate.
Transformation not Conversation is the mark of a true believer.