Grace made personal.

In this era of the secular mass media, we are surrounded by celebrities created by the press and by prepackaged television personalities. Unfortunately, evangelicalism has also fallen prey to the celebrity syndrome of the communications industry. We read Christian best-sellers: first-person accounts by news-makers (sometimes coauthored or ghost-written); we watch and listen to the testimonies of sports stars and entertainers at televised evangelistic crusades; we make movies featuring great Christian personalities. These uses of the media can be quite valid means of spreading the good news to a general public accustomed to the ways of television and film; they can also encourage and teach pilgrims on the way to the Celestial City.

The celebrity syndrome is dangerously close to getting out of hand, however. We forget sometimes what it means to tell one’s individual story in the light of the theology of grace made personal. We also neglect the biblical teaching of imitation in the Christian life. Instead, through the media, we live vicariously the thrilling experiences of others and think that the Christian life should somehow be glamorous.

In the New Testament, particularly in Hebrews, we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus. Imitation is, first of all, to be of Christ. In order to persevere in the Christian life, we are also called to imitate the saints. The writer of Hebrews exhorts the struggling early Christian to show concern, not to be lazy, “but to imitate those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promise” (6:11–12, NEB). After citing the catalogue of saints in chapter 11, the writer concludes that once we realize we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, we can proceed with the ...

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