It was at an evangelism conference when it happened. Some of the nation’s top evangelists were preaching. Most of them directors of nationally renowned ministries or pastors of mega churches. And they didn’t inherit these ministries. They built them from the ground up. They took their churches, as their introductions said, from 100 to 1,000-plus people. Most of them overnight.
It was a typical conference. Another evangelist was preaching, one whose sermon induced “amens” from all over the building. Then, it happened. It was a statement that turned a nasty corner. Sure, it received dozens of “amens.” Some clapped. Others laughed. But that was the point. It was a cheap zinger employed to gain a roaring, knee-slapping response. A deliberate statement to encourage buddies to elbow one another and shake their head in hearty agreement. One that people could reminisce about in the hallways after service. But one that, ironically, served the opposite of the event’s purpose.
The statement was something along the lines of, “I don’t need Christina Uguliera.” The statement also included rhetorical slanders of other well-known celebrities.
I can’t help but think that if Christina Aguilera had been in the audience, she would have probably not been evangelized. In fact, she would have been the opposite of evangelized. She would have been in a room full of hundreds of believers, listening to a professional evangelist speak on the gospel, and still be as lost as the Dallas Cowboys on a football field.
In reading the Gospels, I don’t remember Jesus ever belittling lost people. Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well: “Only God knows how you got five husbands.” He didn’t walk up to the fishermen and say: Pyew! And I mean capital P and capital U. Go take a bath and then you’ll be gospel worthy.”
Instead, Jesus did things like wash people’s feet, touch people with leprosy, and open an old grave so he could raise the rotting corpse back to life. He intentionally chose the stinky and the ugly and bid them to come and die. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Jesus said (Luke 5:32, NASB).
The point is that it would be okay to tell Christina Aguilera that you don’t like her hair, makeup, or the way she dresses. You can tell her that you don’t agree with her music or her choices. You can even tell her that you loathed her on the Mickey Mouse Club. But calling her ugly because she isn’t a Christian is an atrocity. It doesn’t get her or anyone else closer to Jesus and it certainly doesn’t promote the gospel. It demotes it, conveying that if you don’t agree with us then we are going to call you names, take our ball and go home.
If Jesus were here, I would like to think that he would deal with Christina Aguilera differently. He would certainly address her sin, but he wouldn’t degrade her in the process. He wouldn’t be worried about what’s happening on the outside so much as about what’s going on in the inside. That is, he would tell her she has an ugly heart, not an ugly face. And it would be so that she might respond to the power of the gospel, not so believers can respond to the appeal of his rhetoric.
This is because the gospel is for Christina Aguilera, and every other ugly-hearted sinner, of which I am included.