American actor and producer Mark Wahlberg recently joined the Today Show, telling host Savannah Guthrie that “God didn’t come to save the saints. He came to save the sinners.”
Wahlberg gave the interview on Ash Wednesday (February 22, 2023), a day which marks the beginning of the penitential 40-day season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Lent, typically marked by the three practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, is a time of repentance and preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Funny enough, the Today Show’s chyron referred to Lent as “Mark Wahlberg’s 40-Day Challenge.”
Regarding fasting, Wahlberg said that there can be different ways to fast. “God knows the things that he wants you to detach from,” Wahlberg said. “We all know those things that make us feel guilty … [we want] to focus on good habits as opposed to bad habits.”
Guthrie asked Wahlberg about his faith, and whether he has always been outspoken about it.
“I do not deny my faith. That’s an even bigger sin,” Wahlberg said. “You know, it’s not popular in my industry. But you know, I cannot deny my faith. It’s important for me to share that with people.”
Asked what his faith means to him, Wahlberg replied, “It’s everything.” He added:
It’s afforded me so many things. You know, God didn’t come to save the saints. He came to save the sinners. We’ve all had things, issues in our lives, and we want to be better versions of ourselves.
Wahlberg also shared that he tries to set a good example for his children when it comes to his faith.
“I want them to understand that dad has to start his day by getting on his hands and knees. And no matter where I am, my priority on Sunday is to go to church,” Wahlberg said. “Hopefully, they’ll say, ‘Well, there’s got to be something there.’”
You can probably count on one hand the number of A-list actors who are willing to speak openly and confidently about their faith. In that sense, Mark Wahlberg deserves a lot of credit.
Wahlberg has recently done numerous ads for the Catholic prayer and meditation app Hallow, which provides audio Bible stories, prayers and Christian music.
Wahlberg’s remark that God came to save sinners is also spot on. Mark 2:17 says:
And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (ESV).
As a man with a checkered past, Wahlberg knows what he’s talking about. As a teenager, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder at age 16, and plead guilty to felony assault, for which he spent 45 days in prison. He’s also admitted that he had developed an addiction to cocaine by age 13.
And yet, perhaps Wahlberg’s past is a part of the paradox that we find in him – and in ourselves. On the one hand, as Christians, we have been saved and redeemed by our Savior. And yet, we still struggle with sin and temptation, not always living up to the faith that we profess.
More recently, Wahlberg has also said that despite his Catholic faith, he supports same-sex marriage.
Clearly, Mark is not a model in every way. It’s all too common for self-proclaimed Christians to pick and choose which orthodox beliefs they want to hold. Some might wholly affirm the trinity but deny traditional marriage. Others may affirm traditional marriage, while denying that life begins at conception. These are not insignificant issues.
That is why it’s important to accept that Jesus Christ did not come for us to give Him only a part of our lives. He came to redeem our whole selves, heart, mind, intellect and will included.
If Christ is truly God, and everything that He taught is true, then we should assent to every single thing that Christ taught.
In John 17, Jesus Christ prayed his High Priestly Prayer, asking His Father that those who have been given to him would be in the world, but not of the world.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16 ESV).
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes about how it is impossible for us to truly become “ourselves” without Christ.
“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become,” Lewis writes. He adds:
The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires … It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.
In that way, paradoxically, the more we give up ourselves, the more we become ourselves – or rather, who we were originally created to be.
Like Mark Wahlberg, all of us are at different ages and stages of our faith in Christ. Some may be brand new, others much further along. But only in Christ and through Christ can we become who God made us to be.
And that, is “everything.”
Photo from Today.