I’ll be honest: I think the only time in my life I’ve listened to Kanye West was before I was a Christian. I never really got into it then just because my music preferences were different, but I heard it through friends who loved his music. I’ve known Christians who listen to Kanye’s old music and I have no clue how someone can get past the cognitive dissonance of what I’d just say is not fit for consumption in any fashion–but that’s truthfully neither here nor there.
I’ve been watching the events surrounding Kanye for some time now with a cautious optimism, mainly because he has a solid pastor discipling him (who has been for some time). I watched one of the Sunday Service events he held, and in light of all that, even wrote an article in defense of Kanye’s profession of faith. The reason? Again, because a solid brother in the Lord has vouched for his profession of faith and I take this man at his word. So, I’ve essentially looked at him like I would any new convert: I’m hopeful he perseveres and grows in Christ.
Fast forward to today: I’ve been seeing people referencing Kanye’s new album, Jesus Is King, all over the place, so I gave it a listen. It is thirty minutes long, so it didn’t take much time at all, but I can say there is a remarkable difference between what I knew of Kanye West then and what I hear him saying now. Heck, there’s a remarkable difference in what he’s saying on this album and what some established Christian Hip-Hop artists have recorded.
Just take a quick look at some of the lyrics from “Hands On”:
I deserve all the criticism you got
If that’s all the love you have, that’s all you got
To sing of change, you think I’m joking
To praise His name, you ask what I’m smoking
Yes, I understand your reluctancy, yeah
But I have a request, you see
Don’t throw me up, lay your hands on me
Please, pray for me
Hold myself on death
Hold it down, all fallen down
Somebody pray for me
You can’t read this and tell me nothing is going on in his heart. But that’s not even what I want to really say, because I’ve already basically said that elsewhere. Honestly, what I want to say is that you should pray for Kanye, but you should also pray for your unbelieving neighbor, co-worker, friend, spouse–whomever. You should also go and give them the gospel and be excited to be part of the work that God is doing. You should expect big things from God, because we know that God will continue to advance His kingdom as He sees fit and with whomever He desires to bring in.
God may use Kanye West for incredible things, but God also might use your “Uncle Frank” to advance His Kingdom in incredible ways that Kanye would blush at. God might be pleased to save your old, angry grandfather on his deathbed. God might be pleased to let Kanye’s life also be filled with incredible hardship for the rest of his days. Kanye West might fade from notoriety in the days to come; heck, Kanye might even simply not live to see a ripe, old age. We simply don’t know. None of us can forecast what will come of his life nor should we be fooled into thinking that somehow Kanye’s notoriety gives him an advantage in leveraging his life for the sake of the gospel. The only thing that gives Kanye the advantage is the gospel itself, for it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18).
What we do know is that God is good, faithful, and patient, desiring that none would perish, but come to repentance and faith (2 Pt. 3:9). We do know that God did not put the Kingdom of God into the hands of a select few with a large platform, but that He chose twelve ordinary men to flip the world upside-down. We do know that God did not choose many who were wise in the eyes of the world, mighty, or of a noble birth, but that He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, the lowly and despised to shame the esteemed–all so He gets the full glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). What we do know is that the harvest in plentiful, but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37).
The only reason why any of this is transpiring in Kanye West’s life and before a watching world’s eyes is because somebody at some time spoke truth to Kanye West, gave him the gospel, and invited him to the church where Adam Tyson pastors. In other words, a bunch of regular people have been faithful to evangelize and start the disciple-making process with someone the world deems a somebody, and that somebody seems to be recognizing that he is a nobody, at least in the grand scheme of things, and Christ is the real Somebody.
Ultimately, if you’re a Christian–this is you at some point in your life before coming to Christ. The only reason why you’re alive and have been given the grace to know the truth of God’s mercy is that He gave you that mercy to begin with. Someone at some point came to you with the good news of the gospel and God opened your eyes to the truth. In His infinite kindness and grace, God gave you mercy when you deserved wrath; God gave you kindness when you deserved indignation and He gave you these things, not so you could be filled up and squander such a gift, but so you would proclaim it from the rooftops. God sent someone to preach the news of the coming judgment and they pleaded with you to turn to God for salvation, and you believed, and now He has called you to go and do the same.
I’ve heard from far too many people that they are waiting for the right time, or perhaps they feel like they’ve not reached that place in the friendship yet, or they simply don’t know how to not be awkward about it, but at some point we must stop using excuses and just be found faithful to preach the gospel. It is so easy for us to come home after a long day of work, eat dinner with our families, and tune out to Netflix, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until our neighbor dies, never having heard the gospel from our lips. It is easy to think of all the grand things Kanye West might do for the sake of the Kingdom, but God has called each and every one of us to work in the harvest. May we be found faithful in this great work, rather than watching on the sidelines in the hopes that someone of renown does the work for us through another (good) album.