By Mark Ellis
In the last few years, singer-songwriter Justin Bieber’s bad-boy antics and run-ins with the law have alienated some of his Christian fan base and even led thousands to petition the White House to have the Canadian-born star deported. But recently, the 21-year-old pop sensation has considered the error of his ways and made a stunning turnaround in his relationship with Christ.
In an interview with Joe La Puma for the Oct/Nov 2015 issue of COMPLEX conducted at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, Bieber bares his soul about the dramatic restoration of his walk with Jesus.
“I forgot what I was about, what my mom raised me to be,” Bieber confessed to COMPLEX. “I veered off, and I got tainted. I came into the music industry at 13. I was trying to trust people and they’d break my heart at 15,” he says.
Bieber became disillusioned with people who took advantage of him. In response, he started to “do his own thing.”
“I got into a little bit of trouble,” he admits, “—nothing that other 20-year-olds don’t get into—just rebelling a little bit. Now, being 21, I’m coming into my own and around some pretty cool people who are not afraid to tell me what’s real.”
He says his behavior pushed the limits. “I was doing anything. I was doing so many things that I shouldn’t even be on the planet still. I think that it (my survival) was by the grace of God.”
During his time of rebellion, he says his manager, Scooter Braun always made sure he was safe and that situations didn’t escalate out of control. Sometimes Braun’s oversight as a “fixer” worked, and other times it backfired, he told COMPLEX.
The night he spent in jail was an unforgettable experience. “It’s freezing; it’s uncomfortable; there are people in there you just don’t want to be around. I had people who were yelling at me. They were saying, “Bieber! We f___ with you, bro! We love you! Aye! Keep your head up, bro!” It was kind of funny to hear that, especially from cats in jail.”
Bieber admits some people around him wanted him to rebel.
Following his epic break-up with Selena Gomez, his heart began to soften toward God. “Love is a choice. Love
is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is.
“You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her,” he continued. “That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in Him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me.”
After his turbulent adolescence, he also began to reflect on the limits of science and his place in the universe. “For a “big bang” to create all this is more wild to think about than thinking about there being a God,” he told COMPLEX.
“Imagine putting a bunch of gold into a box, shaking up the box, and out comes a Rolex. It’s so preposterous once people start saying it. At this point, my faith has gotten me to where I am. My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith.”
Bieber bemoans some of the representations of Christianity he sees on late-night TV and says he wants to focus less on religion and more on his personal relationship with God.
“I’m not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation. I want to share what I’m going through and what I’m feeling and I think it shouldn’t be ostracized.”
“I actually feel better and more free now that I know what I can do and what I can’t do. I’m gonna use my voice for a reason. I think that people, as soon as they start hearing me saying I’m a Christian, they’re like, “Whoa Justin, back up, take a step back.”
Bieber says he wants to pursue Christlikeness with increased focus. “I do not want to shove this down anyone’s throat. I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins.”
He recognized Jesus came to deal with his insecurities, pain, fears, and trauma. He realized he had been self-medicating – trying to heal himself – and that was unnecessary.
“We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice….I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.”
Bieber compares his love for Jesus with his love for a woman. “It’s like a girlfriend. If I have an awesome, bomb girlfriend, I’m gonna wanna show her off and go around and tell people my girl is the s___. I’m not gonna cheat on her because she’s the best.
“It’s like with God: The whole thing with religion is you present yourself holy and bring your offerings so that God can bless you, when the whole point of the relationship [should be], ‘No, I’m gonna do this because he loves me. I’m gonna do this because he’s amazing and not because [I] have to, [but] because [I] want to.’ That’s the whole thing with religion that’s been throwing off the people. It’s not a ‘have to.’ It should be just like a personal relationship. Like, ‘Hey, I love you because you first loved me.’
“If we can understand that we’re all imperfect, let’s come to God and come for his help. You’re not weak by doing that. I think that’s a common misperception of Christians, that you’re being weak because you can’t handle it. None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.”
But, man, I don’t wanna have to do it on my own. I know for sure my parents can’t give me all that I need. I know that my friends can’t give me all that I need. There’s something missing. I think that going to church is fellowship, it’s relationship, it’s what we’re here on the earth to do, to have this connection that you feel there’s no insecurities. I think that’s where we need to be.
Bieber’s renewed faith has given him a God-centered confidence. “I feel invincible like, nothing is bigger than God. If God’s for me, who can be against me? That’s helped me in a lot of situations where I feel judged. It gives you confidence and you can carry yourself in a cool way, but it’s not cocky. It’s a confidence that’s a godly confidence. That’s what I always want. I wanna be loved for being a good dude and for being confident in myself because I know who I am and what I carry and what I sacrifice.”
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For the full interview in COMPLEX, go here.