By Emily Guajardo |
When the news broke out about Kanye West’s new album Jesus Is King, there were about a thousand responses for and against him, five million statements that started with “I think” and about three consistent arguments regarding West’s journey – Hooray that he has found the Lord; Let’s wait to see if he really did convert; and Who cares? Music is music.
Throughout West’s album, a muse of Jesus’s grace tied to a message of hope, faith and ultimately, transformation, carried the listener on a metaphorical journey toward the heavens.
Starting off with his opening song ‘Every Hour’, a highly talented gospel choir blasts through the silence with the exaluting and soul-like lyrics of:
Sing every hour (Every hour, ’til the power)
Every minute (Every minute, of the Lord)
Every second (Every second, comes)
Sing each and every millisecond (Down)
We need you (We need you, sing ’til the power)
We need you (We need you, of the Lord)
We need you (Comes)
Oh, we need you (Down)
Claiming the precession of God coming down toward his people in need. In this outcry, the choir sings a call-and-respond melody of encouraging one another to sing to God for a number of reasons, very much resembling a Southern, black church today. Known for its poppy sound and dramatic crescendos, West allowed for this choir to set the tone and mode of his album – a mood of evaluation, hope, encouragement and perhaps, internal awakening.
As the album continues, West introduces new songs with phrases like “Everything that hath breath praise the Lord, Worship Christ with the best of your portions, I know I won’t forget all He’s done, He’s the strength in this race that I run” and ending his entire sermon with “Every knee shall bow, Every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord.”
Clearly, the listener understands what West is literally saying.
Jesus is Lord. Kanye (possibly) loves Jesus. Gospel music never really went out of style
However, the real question that has pounded the minds of thousands of pastors and followers is: what does West really mean to say?
What is his motive, if any? How can we know if West really has joined the people of Yaweh? Has West fundamentally understood the implications of being a Christ-follower and not just a believer?
Well, the answer is simple.
No human knows, will know, or should be in the business of knowing. Period.
Even if West only used the Word as a book for musical inspiration, won’t his message still ring true? Isn’t Jesus the Lord we proclaim that is faithful, all-loving and filled with grace? Even if West didn’t convert to the faith, shouldn’t we, as christians, encourage one another to seek the Kingdom instead of judging on whether they have truly accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior?
One of the fundamental characters in the gospels are the Pharisees, keepers of the Law. Time and time again, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for causing doubt amongst His people and their “revivals” and salvation.
He called them out on their own sins and cast them away from Him. Watch closely.
In Matthew 23:2-12, Jesus speaks to directly to pharisees and people by saying:
“The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels[a] for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers. But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. Don’t call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.”
Ask yourself this – do you find yourself becoming a Pharisee when you think about West’s new album? Are you thumping your bible on the floor because you’re confused that Jesus really can change someones life?
If so, return to the Father who remembered and adopted you when you sinned and were meant for death.
In a recent interview with James Cordon, host of the Late Late Show, Cordon asks West a number of questions regarding why he chose to draw the focus primarily on gospel music and what he has to say to those who question his “transformation.”
To which West replied with,
“I say, when you go to sleep, would you agree that you are asleep when you are asleep? And when you wake up, would you agree that you are awake when you are awake? Would you agree that those are two different states? People who don’t believe are walking dead. They are asleep and this is the awakening”
I am not West’s pastor nor am I his enemy.
All I know is that if the Lord can turn the hearts of His people back to Him, He can bring people out of their darkest hour. If the Lord can use prostitutes and jealous people in the direct genealogy of Jesus, He can use anyone He chooses. If the Lord can turn Saul, a tyrant on early Christians, into Paul, the greatest apostle of the early church, He can change people in the blink of an eye.
Regardless of his motives behind his lyrics, I serve a God who shows grace, praises others for their accomplishments and charges after them with love and mercy.
Give Kanye a break.
He ultimately, might be our newest brother or he might just be our fellow neighbor.
In any case, the name of Jesus is being lifted in the rare sphere of secular music and for that, we should give praise.