I have been more critical of Kanye West over the past five to seven years than almost any artist out there. I have voiced this criticism online and in my social circles, more so than I am proud to admit. Many of his comments and ideas over the years rubbed many people the wrong way, especially Christians. While I am not here to cast judgment on Kanye’s past actions, or condemn him for them, I am here to point out the current judgmental actions of Christians in response to the releasing of his latest album Jesus Is King.
Don’t get it twisted. No artist, famous person, or public personality is above criticism. None. If you produce a body of work in a society where access to your work is incredibly easy you better expect to hear from the masses, especially given the fact that social media gives every single person a platform to share their voice. But let me be clear: what I’m seeing from a large number of Christians is overwhelmingly pathetic, disturbing, sad, and at times completely unbiblical.
Like I said at the start, I haven’t vibed with Kanye West for a while. I don’t particularly enjoy his music anymore. I completely disagreed with some of his political stances and was deeply offended, as someone whose Great-Grandparents were enslaved in this country, when he claimed slavery was a choice. However, as a follower of Jesus, nothing makes me happier than the fact he has publicly stated he has turned back to Christ.
So why are so many Christians judging him relentlessly? Isn’t repentance what we want to see for our brothers and sisters that fall away? Isn’t a spiritual transformation that makes one leave their old self behind and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ what we pray for those who are not saved?
Yeah, sure, we can discuss that “maybe he hasn’t changed because we don’t know his heart.” But you can say the same for anyone that turns to Jesus because you will never know the heart of man. But entertain this for a second. If you invited your best friend to church and they accepted Christ, made visible changes to their life, and proclaimed the good news whenever they had a chance, would you still hold them accountable for the old them? Would you not be thrilled that they, a lost sheep, were now accounted for and made new through the blood of the Lamb? I would surely hope that you would rejoice because heaven surely does. As found in Luke 15:7:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Here is another thing to consider, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). So even if Kanye is acting and this is all a sham, he will have to answer for this. Even if it is all a publicity stunt — which I believe it isn’t — take a look at Paul’s words in Phillippians 1:15–18:
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
I firmly believe that Paul, a man who murdered Christians before his encounter with God, would know a thing or two about preaching the gospel of Jesus for personal gain. I am sure many said the same thing as Paul. That he was a sham, a fraud, and the product of a phony conversion. Not that Kanye West is Paul the Apostle, but similarly, I do not think this is a sham. I believe that this is a real and authentic transformation that only can occur when one encounters the Holy Spirit and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the God of the Holy Bible as sovereign.
But here is the thing; regardless of what I think, my belief in Kanye’s transformation does absolutely nothing to my belief or my faith in God. As I told my friend earlier today, it’s a good thing that God’s existence doesn’t rest upon our belief in Him because our belief in God does nothing to the fact that God is real. God doesn’t need us to validate Him, He is validated by His very nature and it is because of God’s perfect nature that He freely offers salvation to all people, through Jesus Christ, while fully recognizing our imperfections and flaws.
So to those who are playing judge and jury, something Jesus explicitly warns against time and time again— and calling this a sham — I ask you this: is Kanye West beyond being saved? Is he exempt from salvation?
So many of these takes I have seen online are centered around the internal belief that somehow you are better than Kanye West, thus more deserving of God’s grace and forgiveness. Just because Kanye’s path to the Father is different, it does not mean that it is wrong. This is the same unbiblical, divisive, and elementary thought pattern used to discredit any artist that rocks the boat and does not conform to traditional American Christianity — whatever the heck that is. Kirk Franklin faced it in the 90s, so did the Gospel Gangstaz, Lecrae, as have many “secular sounding” Christian artists.
You are not the example of what a Christian is meant to be, Jesus is. Your walk is important yes, but who paved The Way? Jesus. Who are we striving to be like each day? Jesus. Jesus is the pioneer of our faith, not you. Christianity does not center around what you think it ought to be, it centers around the teachings of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. By the way, the use of “you” is rhetorical but if the boot fits, then it is time to put a different pair on.
I struggle living in a nation that believes the current president is a man of God more so than someone who publically shares their faith, admits their wrongdoings, and openly says their trust and hope is now in Jesus Christ. Whether you like it or not, Kanye West is pointing people to Jesus and just like any messenger, Christ is the source, we are the vessel. The Bible says “each tree is recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44) and the fruit Kanye has been producing suggests that this is genuine. For the better part of a year now, he has routinely given credit to Jesus Christ. He is directing folks to Jesus, not to himself. That is what Biblical repentance is; turning away from your former way and embracing Yahweh.
It would be one thing to say “I am a Christian and I love Jesus” and then do the opposite to what Christians are meant to be doing. I haven’t seen that from him. I have seen him impact hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. He has brought the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of Kanye, to them in a relatable way. Granted we only see a slither of his life, but what I do see is what is described in Romans 10:9–10:
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
Nobody is beyond saving. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) therefore we are all in need of being saved if we ever want to be reconnected with God through Jesus our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). It is God’s wish for us that we accept salvation because He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Waves of hip-hop listening Christians were quick to embrace Chance the Rapper when he gave his life to Jesus and Justin Bieber’s spiritual transformation, so why is Kanye West any different?
While I believe that this transformation is real, and I pray that every listener and person out there follow suit — whether real or phony — Jesus is King. Nothing will ever change that. I am just happy an entire nation now has the opportunity to embrace and proclaim it.