Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
So I was watching the Grammy’s last Sunday night. And it occurred to me how badly people want to be famous. FAME. So many people chasing it. And I don’t know if it’s because we live in a global media age or not but it seems like there are more people chasing fame than in any other time in human history, especially in America where the lure of fame and its elusive promises are more prevalent than anywhere else on the planet. Each year thousands of hopefuls pour into Hollywood with a dream of becoming the next big thing. And if you can’t become a legitimate artist, there’s always “Reality TV” which just might give you what Andy Warhol coined, “your 15 minutes of fame.”
Now there are people who are legitimately famous, that is, they are widely known for something of value, some contribution they’ve made to society in art, literature, politics, or sports. But here’s the scary part: being famous in itself has become in our culture sort of a “legitimate career path.”
Fame for some is seen as destination instead of a result of becoming great at something you love to do.
So we’re actually cultivating a society that finds it legitimate to be “famous for being famous.” A study released by the Learning and Skills Council of the UK states that 11% of young people would drop out of education or training to be on TV. 16% believe that they will actually become famous. However, the odds of being picked for a Reality TV show and being successful afterwards are around one in 30 million, worse odds than winning the lottery jackpot.
A guy named, Orville Gilbert Brim, a scholar in the field of human and child development wrote a book entitled, “Look At Me! The Fame Motive from Childhood to Death.” In the book he writes about why people want to be famous. He says that fame-seeking behavior appears to be rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the reassurance promised by being widely known. Anything wrong with yearnings to be known? No. These yearnings are good, they’re human, they’re divine. But they get misplaced. Brim, has traced longing for renown to lingering feelings of rejection or neglect. After all, celebrity is the ultimate high school “in-group.”
So where did all this go wrong? It really started in heaven if you can believe that. Satan, originally the chief angel in heaven wanted to be more famous than God. Tried to orchestrate a coup. Isaiah 14:13-14 records the incident.
“I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
As you might imagine that didn’t fly with God. And so Satan was cast out of heaven for his rebellion. So Satan brings his rebellion and disdain for God and waits for the opportunity to introduce the chase for fame into the human race. Now God had given Adam and Eve amazing freedom, perfect paradise with only one restriction: “No eating from this tree.” They were God’s perfect creation, perfect environment. They knew God and he knew them. No need for FAME. But Satan wants to draw them into his own rebellion. Strikes up a conversation with Eve, begins to spin a web of lies so alluring and powerful that it makes her believe that the only way she will really be happy is not to know and be known by God but to rival God and be equal to him in fame. And she bought it and then bit it. And so did Adam. From that moment on the “longing to be known” got distorted and became the “chase for fame.” God’s word to us here is clear.
Don’t chase being known by the masses; chase being know by who matters.
So this pursuit of strategies to make life work apart from God got injected into the gene pool of humanity. And for thousands of years we’ve been chasing fame because of a misplaced desire to know and be known by God. God has watched in sadness as we’ve done it. He spoke into the lives of his people through the prophet Jeremiah.
“My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols…they have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:11-13
Being known by people who don’t really know you is a “broken cistern,” a cheap imitation for knowing God and being deeply known by him and others. It’s misplaced desire. The thing about misplaced desire, it costs you.
By the way, if you get famous. It’s a precarious thing. Most people can’t handle fame with humility. I was talking to a friend the other day who was at an event that honoring the accomplishments of what would be a famous person in the Christian Community. And the guy speaking at the event said the remarkable thing about this leader was that in the wave of his expanding influence he hasn’t taken the “weird pill.” Because you know when most people get fame they get weird. Start insisting on Evian in the bathtub, prefer you not look them directly in the eye, must have to have certain thread count of sheets in a hotel room, dress their dogs in designer clothes…just weird!
I read a story about former President Jimmy Carter when he was working on a Habitat for Humanity project in Hungary. He arrived before everyone else. He never stopped working. He made it clear to fellow construction workers that he was there to work and not to visit. This was no publicity event. At mealtime he took a place at the end of the line. He used the same portable bathrooms everyone else used. Stayed in the same housing everyone else endured. Throughout the week it was clear that that he resisted any special privileges he might have been entitled to.
How do we get there? The writer John is really tied into this idea. He’s speaking into the life of this community to help them grasp this idea of knowing and being known by God. Now most Bible versions don’t translate the first word of this verse but it begins with this little Greek word, idete means “Behold!” It’s the language reserved for special announcements. For example:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child!” Matthew 1:23
“Behold the Lamb of God!” John 1:36
“Behold I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5
Now look what John does with it.
Behold what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1
In Brennan Manning’s book, The Wisdom of Tenderness, he recalls his encounter with a seventy-eight-year-old women. Through her tears, she said, “I’ve never told anyone about this. It started when I was five years old. My father would crawl into my bed and touch me. He said that our family doctor had suggested touching, so we could know each other better. When I was nine, my father took my virginity, and by the time I was twelve I knew every kind of sexual perversion that you could find in a dirty book. I can’t find words to tell you how filthy I feel. I’ve lived with so much hatred of my father and hatred of myself…” I prayed with her for several minutes for inner healing. Then I asked her, “Would you be willing to go off to a quiet place every morning for the next month, sit down in a chair, close your eyes, upturn your palms, and pray this one phrase over and over: ‘Abba, I belong to you’?” She looked skeptical, so I explained further. “It’s a prayer of exactly seven syllables, and seven syllables correspond perfectly to the rhythm of our breathing. At the outset, you’ll say it with your lips alone, but as your mind becomes conscious of the meaning, you’ll begin to push your head down into your heart in a figurative sense, so that ‘Abba, I belong to you’ becomes a heartfelt cry from the depth of your being, establishing who you are, why you’re here, and where you’re going. I asked her, “Will you try it?” She replied, “Yes.” Two weeks later, I received the most moving and poetic letter that’s ever been written to me. This old woman described the inner healing of her heart, the complete forgiveness of her father, and inner peace she had never known before. She ended her letter this way: “A year ago I would have signed this letter with my real name but from now on, I’m just Daddy’s little girl.”
By the way this is God’s message for us. You belong to God. You are God’s son, God’s daughter. I know some of you don’t see yourselves that way. That was forgotten. Or covered up. You got confused. Or deceived.
-As a child your parents told you, you weren’t good enough.
-As a teen you weren’t or aren’t a part of the “in crowd.”
-As a woman you were defined by relationships with men
-As a man you masked your pain with control
You need to know that you are God’s specially loved child. Can you get anymore famous than that? You see, one of the reasons people chase fame is because they don’t know who they are and so they think if they become famous, they’ll find out. But how can you let people who don’t really know you and don’t really care be the ones who define you? Any anyone who’s ever achieved fame will tell you, the people who loved you one day will turn on you the next. There’s a great line in the Eagles song New Kid in Town. “They will never forget you ’til somebody new comes along.”
Chasing fame is fickle because it’s so elusive, so hard to get and harder to keep. And if we listen to the voices of people who “make us famous”, it makes it almost impossible to listen to the inner voice inside of us that says, “Abba, I belong to you.”
Don’t chase being known by the masses; chase being know by who matters.