“But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6).
It’s interesting to note that Paul the Apostle did not seem awed or impressed by those who held positions of recognition within the first century church. Paul summarized his feelings with the following comment in Galatians 2:6: “By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites” (NLT).
This parenthetical statement directs us to an important insight: if these first-century personalities were viewed as people “who seemed to be something,” then today’s information age provides us with a greater opportunity to elevate their modern-day counterparts. Unfortunately, this presents a danger for prominent members of the Christian community as well as those who seek to exalt them to celebrity status.
You see, we might be less inclined to view our favorite artists, teachers, authors, spiritual leaders, and media personalities as “those who seem to be something” if we accepted them for who they are: fallible human beings who have been gifted by God with extraordinary talents, skills, and abilities. If we are tempted to view such individuals as VIP’s within the Christian community, it may only be due to the fact that we don’t know them better.
For instance, most of us have little insight into the day-to-day lives of prominent Christian figures. We may not be aware of how they respond when things go wrong behind the scenes. We may not know how they interact with subordinates. We may know very little about their personal lives beyond what is published. If the private lives of our favorite Christian personalities do not align with their reputations as people of importance, we may be shocked when we hear reports of a moral failing, a renunciation of the faith, or the publication of a “tell-all” book concerning them.
There are other consequences involved whenever we elevate prominent men and women of God to positions of celebrity as well. Remember, these individuals must deal with the challenges that accompany the recognition we give them. They must manage the demands of fame and often face the hardships associated with travel and life on the road. They may find it difficult to maintain an attitude of humility in the face of praise for their work or resist the myriad of temptations that popularity brings.
These challenges are not made easier when we forget that “…God doesn’t play favorites” (GW). Therefore, we would be better served to pray for those in positions of prominence and avoid the urge to extol them as Christian celebrities.