Ok. Be honest. When you checked the news this morning and you heard about Miley Cyrus and her antics at yesterday’s MTV Europe Music Awards, what did you think? When collecting the Best Video award  for “Wrecking Ball,” Cyrus pulled a joint out of her purse, lit it up, and proceeded to start smoking. Of course, that was embedded in a day that included some other all-too-familiar and not-so-shocking-anymore behavior from the not-yet-21-year-old pop star.  .  . including how she was dressed, twerking with a little person, and tweeting a naked selfie (shoulders up) from her shower to her 15 million followers.

In many ways, this story is simply a continuation of old news. The downside of that is that it’s going to take someone who decides to stretch the envelope even further to send us into a state of shock and awe. That’s how pop culture evolves and stretches. But what this story does do is give us an opportunity to respond. We all respond in some way that falls somewhere on the response spectrum. That can be anywhere from total disdain to not batting an eyelash.

As I’ve been tracking the development of Miley Cyrus over the years, I’ve also been tracking our response in the church to Cyrus and others like her. The latter practice is probably the most important of the two, since we can’t take responsibility for Cyrus’s behavior but we must take responsibility for ourselves.

I’ve encountered a full spectrum of responses among the brethren, from disdain to disinterested yawns. This morning, I was challenged personally regarding my response. I’ll pass my thoughts on as I think we need to strike a balance that truly brings glory to God, while serving our kids and others who might benefit from some healthy perspective.

First, Cyrus can’t be ignored, easily discounted, or just written off. In other words, we can’t take the “who am I to judge” stance. If we do, we will fail to teach our kids that yes, behavior does matter. We will also fail to teach our kids a balanced perspective on grace. In the first two sentences of his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.” Bonhoeffer goes on to say that “cheap grace amounts to a denial of the living Word of God. . . . (a) justification of the sin without the justification of the sinner.” Costly grace, on the other hand, calls us to follow Jesus Christ. “It is costly because it condemns sin” and “grace because it justifies the sinner” . . .

. . . which leads then to the second aspect of our response. We cannot arrogantly cast stones at the sinner. Instead, we must humbly pray with passion and earnest compassion for this young lady. To fail to see her as Christ sees her should be seen as an even graver misdeed than excusing her behavior under the cover the cheap grace. Once again, I go back to something that I once heard John White say about our response to sinners: “As Christ is to me, so must I be to others.”

Remember that your response is a powerful teacher to those who are watching, especially our kids. Strike that balance while talking about sin and grace.

4 thoughts on “Miley Cyrus. . . Another Teachable Moment. . .

  1. Walt,
    Just before I read your post, I also read this article which explains why 19 year old Justin Bieber is really quite justified in sleeping with high-priced prostitutes.


    Here is yet another teen star who used to have a Christian testimony, but who has been sucked into the hungry maw of fame. My heart breaks for these kids, and for our society that sacrifices them on the alter of fame.


  2. I just wanted to ask who John White is/was? I googled his name really fast and I think I figured it out but wanted to make sure I got the right one. I really liked the way he put it, “As Christ is to me, so must I be to others.”

    That holds both loving forgiveness and loving correction in the tension of the cross. Thanks for the thoughts!

  3. Micah – this is the John White who wrote the books “The Fight” and “Parents in Pain.” The original context was in the latter book in reference to one’s own children.

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