You (yes, you) should pray for Justin Bieber.
And no, not because he said a few four-letter words on his new “Freedom.” EP. Actually, quite the opposite.
Justin’s latest six-song offering, released on Easter Sunday, is another iteration of the Bieber brand of tasteful pop that’ll find you rolling the windows down to bop on a warm and sunny day (until you realize you’re outing yourself as a Belieber, which for some reason still requires a level of justification).
This EP, as the kids say, slaps.
But something is different this time.
This record is a straight-up Gospel drop. It lifts high the name of Jesus and exalts His glorious Name. And before you go dismissing him due to a few usages of a certain synonym for “crap,” please hear me out.
Justin’s faith journey has been well-documented over the years. Wait… let’s rephrase that. Justin’s entire life has been well-documented over the years. Anyone who has followed Bieber in the news knows he experienced some years of turmoil as his fame and influence grew before a newfound hope in Jesus gave him a solid foundation on which he could regain his footing. Mix in some interaction with celebrity pastors and all of the sudden Bieber was a hot topic at the intersection of pop culture and Christianity.
Bieber began more openly discussing his faith in his music on his “Purpose” record, an album that caught my attention because of both the lyrical content and the fact that it was just good pop music. It was a breath of fresh air for many reasons. I became a Belieber.
References to his faith in Jesus have continued to appear in his music over the years. He often posts about his faith to his 169 million followers on Instagram (not a typo… he has the 10th-largest following on Instagram). And while it’s hard to know for sure, most of those posts don’t read like pre-planned content from the JB team. They read like they’re written from the thumbs, and heart, of JB himself.
He’s in a rather prolific season of his career, releasing more and more music and gaining more and more popularity — something that’s never really been an issue for Justin Bieber. His fanbase is absolutely massive. His fame, money and influence are unfathomable. In JB’s words, “I’ve had everything in life that people strive for.”
Those lyrics, straight from his new “Freedom.” EP, are followed by these ones: “just to ask the question ‘what are we alive for?'”
Don’t worry, he’ll answer that… because something is different this time.
On this six-song record, Jesus isn’t just a theme. He’s the theme.
There isn’t just an allusion to the Gospel. There’s a full-on presentation & declaration of the Gospel.
Bieber doesn’t just mention his faith story. He gives an open and honest testimony of life change.
Justin Bieber, who has absolutely no impetus to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his music beyond an authentic desire for others to know Jesus, has done just that — shared the pure Gospel of freedom in Christ with millions and millions of people around the world who will listen to his newest work.
Shouldn’t we pray that an unchurched teenage girl, alone in her room late on a Friday night and hurting from a lack of self-worth, hears these words?
When I’m all alone and
Fear is all I see
Sitting in the silence with these insecurities
It’s then You remind me, You’re holding me tight
And You love me completely, You’re always by my side
And You say to me
It’ll be alright
Oh, and the next verse for good measure…
I know You’re not a God out there hiding on mountains, oh no
You come right where I am, lost my way but You found me
Like the rain in the dark, on my ugliest days
You say that You’ll always love me just the same
And then You remind me that You’re holding me tight
You said the past is behind me and it will be alright
Shouldn’t we pray that those lyrics propel her into a conversation with a friend at school who knows Jesus, and that friend will expound upon the Gospel, and that first girl, once hopeless and hurting, will make Jesus the Lord and Savior of her life?
Yes, we should. Yes, you should. And you shouldn’t just pray for the impact of Justin Bieber’s music.
You should pray for Justin Bieber.
Justin Bieber doesn’t need to use the name of Jesus for fame. He already has that. He doesn’t need to use the name of Jesus for money. He already has that… a lot of it. The only reason I can come up with for the words in the “Freedom.” EP is that Justin Bieber authentically loves Jesus and wants others to know Him.
If that’s the case (and the evidence is clear that it is) then he’s my brother in the ministry of the Gospel, and I will pray that God grows him in further devotion to the Gospel message that has changed in his life. I will pray for his sanctification, for his resistance to temptation, and most of all, I will pray these Pauline words that my dad often prays for me…
That Justin Bieber “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [he] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” — Ephesians 3:18-19 ESV
The worst that could happen in praying that prayer is that you spend time praying for someone you don’t actually know (how awful). The best that could happen is that God honors your prayer, your brother in ministry is filled with the fullness of God, and the Gospel continues to go forth to millions and millions of people through his music.
Before you write off Justin Bieber due to his past sins and very public mistakes, listen to the words he’s written to you on “Afraid To Say,” the last track on “Freedom.”
What have we done with society?
When everybody’s getting canceled (Oh, oh-oh, oh-oh)
And can’t there be room for maturity?
‘Cause writing ’em off is not the answer
We can’t write people off
God never writes us off
Even in our darkest days, even when we least deserve it
Even when we’re doing that stupid thing we wish we weren’t doing
God never writes us off, ever
He’s with us in our pain, He’s with us in our struggle
He’s with us in our bad decisions
He’s with us all the time, He never writes us off (He never writes us off)
As one of my co-workers said recently, “Praise God that he doesn’t cancel us despite our mistakes.” That is the Gospel. Jesus cancelled sin on our behalf so that we wouldn’t need to be cancelled ourselves. Instead, we’re loved, provided for, given hope, and saved.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” — Romans 5:8 ESV
Now, with your Gospel glasses on, take a look at the first few lines of “Afraid To Say.”
I’m afraid to say the wrong thing
Criticized from every angle
And I’m afraid to lay it on the line
And selfishly I wanna hold back
When JB uses a few four-letter words toward the beginning of “We’re In This Together,” I believe he’s laying his imperfection on the line, knowing full well he might be dismissed by those who’d rather be blinded by buzzwords than listen to the heart of his message.
Instead of holding back, he speaks rawly and tells his testimony, highlighting the cross of Christ just a few lines later.
And if you keep listening, he prays for you.
Justin Bieber, yes Justin Bieber, prays for you.
I pray for every single person listening to this song right now
I pray for peace. I pray for joy. I pray for confidence. I pray for reassurance
I thank you so much for the person listening to this right now
I pray that You would bless them
Bless their mind, bless their finances
Bless their family, bless their sons, bless their daughters, bless their moms, bless their dads, bless their grandparents
God, I just pray for an overwhelming sense of Your presence in their home right now
An overwhelming sense of Your peace that says, “Everything is going to be all right.”
In the name of Jesus
In the name of Jesus
Jesus, I pray for Justin Bieber. I pray Your presence would be overwhelming in His life. I pray that all the powers of the enemy would run from him in the name of Jesus. I pray you’d reveal to him daily how much you love him, and that the Gospel would set him free again and again for the rest of his life. I pray you’d use him to lead countless people to your cross and resurrection and that those people would find salvation in You alone. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
You should pray for Justin Bieber.