There is a story in 2 Kings about Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19), a general in the Aramean army. The Bible describes him as “a great man” (v 1) suggesting he was a national hero in Aram.
But though a celebrity, he also had leprosy — a dreaded, disfiguring disease in that culture. Since leprosy was incurable, people were considered the living dead. But one day his servant girl, an Israelite captured during one of Naaman’s many raids, told her master about an Israeli prophet capable of curing a person of leprosy.
When he tracked down the prophet, Elisha told Naaman he would be healed if he dunked himself seven times in the Jordan River. After kicking up a bit of a fuss, Naaman did as he was told and was instantly healed.
Naaman offered Elisha gold and wealth for the healing, but the the prophet refused the generous gift.
So instead Naaman asked Elisha for a gift.
He wanted two mule loads of Israeli dirt so he could build an altar to the Lord back in Aram. He did not want to use his country’s dirt for this sacred spot that he would use to make sacrifices and to worship Jehovah.
Then Naaman makes a strange request:
18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.”
Despite Naaman’s commitment to God he still had duties to perform back home. One of them involved publicly joining the king in idol worship in the temple of Rimmon. On some occasions, the general would be forced to bow to Rimmon.
Naaman was a hero and celebrity and because of his status there were pressures on him that many of us will never face. He understood the conflict his position in the Aramean army and his new faith in God would cause.
Elisha said “Go in Peace.”
To be honest, Elisha’s response raises more questions than answers.
But most believe that Elisha told Naaman, that God understood the general’s heart and motivation to serve Jehovah, despite those questionable moments.
Similarly I am always impressed when I see Christians making acts of faith in a foreign land, particularly those we consider celebrities. Even though they, like Naaman, may still have their moments.
Actor Chris Pratt and his Easter cross
One of those foreign lands is Hollywood and when I see an actor standing for his faith in a place where people routinely mock Christianity, I am always impressed.
On Easter weekend this year, actor Chris Pratt (Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy) shared photos on Instagram of a cross that he and friends set up. Chris was visiting friends in Texas when they told him of a cross they wanted to set up on their property.
Chris explained what followed in an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show:
They had a big cross. It was on a Saturday, the day before Easter, and they said, ‘You know we got this big cross. We gotta bring it up this great hill at some point.’
I said, ‘Let’s do it right now… I want to do it.’
Chris added it was about 2000 years ago that the Romans forced Christ to carry His cross up a hill to be crucified.
Chris added that their massive cross was “super heavy” and it took him and his friends two days to carry it up the hill and install it.
But he described the experience as “rewarding and awesome.”
Justin Bieber sings a worship song at Paris concert
Another foreign land is the pop music scene.
Religion News Service recently published a story of Justin Bieber’s act of faith. He performed a popular Christian worship song at a concert in Paris, France on September 20, 2016 as part of his “Purpose” tour.
The song, “I could sing of your love forever” which he sang sitting on a couch while playing an acoustic guitar was captured by several members in the concert that evening.
The hit song was made famous by the Christian music group Delirous?.
In the past, Bieber has shared his love of worship music including an image on Instagram of a worship song — This is Living — that he was playing on his Ipod.
Bieber captioned the image with this statement:
“This reminds me how amazing life is supposed to be .. If you are discouraged listen to this song it will bring you supernatural peace, at least it did for me.”
It is always a risk to write stories about the faith of Christian celebrities, because with the media and fans hounding them day and night, photos and videos will invariably appear that will raise the Christian eyebrow.
But if we are honest, you and I have similar moments, they just don’t go viral on social media.
So quoting the words of Elisha, I say to all of us “Go in Peace,” and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His good work in our lives.
- Justin Bieber publicly displays Christian faith, sings “I could sing of your love forever’ before thousands: Gospel Herald
Justin Bieber performs Christian worship song before thousands: Religion News Service
Chris Pratt discusses why he erected cross at Easter: Christian Headlines
- Chris Pratt Explained Why He Erected that Cross at Easter: ‘That’s What Jesus Was Doing 2000 [Years Before]; Carrying a Cross Up a Hill’: Relevant Magazine