Legendary artist and controversial figure Kanye West released his highly anticipated gospel album Jesus is King this past week and it has been the subject of conversation and scrutiny ever since. When something hits the culture this hard there is inevitably something Christians can learn from it, this is especially true regarding Jesus is King.
Christians, We Need to Set a Better Example
On the song “Hands On”, Kanye raps about the conversations he’s had with Christians leading up to the album’s release saying:
“What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? They have been the first ones to judge me, make it feel like nobody loves me.”
When Kanye first announced Jesus is King, people weren’t sure what to do with the information. Religion has played some part in Kanye’s life for a while, like on his song “Jesus Walks” from 2004, but nobody, especially Christians according to “Hands On”, expected Kanye, who hosted the Pornhub awards late last year, to do something like put together a gospel album.
Thankfully, the attitude of other Christians did not push Kanye away. This repeated phrase stating that the Christians “have been the first ones to judge” Kanye should serve as a reminder that we need to be very careful with the way we look at other people’s journey to faith. Not everyone is where we are and those that are making their way towards Jesus should receive a helping hand from us, not a side-eyed stare.
Music reviewers have noted that this isn’t a “gospel” album in the sense that it isn’t really dedicated to praising and extolling Christ. It isn’t a gospel album in the traditional sense but rather a testimonial of the change the gospel has made in Kanye’s life and how the same can happen to you and me. As far as a gospel message is concerned, Jesus is King does a wonderful job laying out the essential elements of the good news of Jesus.
For example, Kanye talks about the fall in the Garden of Eden on “Everything We Need”, the saving power of Jesus for all mankind on “God Is”, the importance of being washed on the track “Water”, and outright talks about the gospel’s power on “Use This Gospel” singing about faith and the difficulty of the Christian journey.
Statistically the world is becoming more atheistic. Jesus is King opens the door to conversation about the gospel with a lot of people who may have never even heard it before. Whether or not you like rap or Kanye is not the point. God has given Christians everywhere the opportunity to easily converse about the gospel and He expects us not to squander it (Col. 4:3-6).
Testimony is Powerful
Kanye West has lived a very publicized and controversial life. As a result, there has been and will continue to be a temptation to look at this album as a cash-grab or fake showing of faith.
Though we cannot know how things will go in the future, it is apparent that this is change in Kanye is real. He speaks about no longer being a slave to the culture and to Satan on the songs “Closed on Sundays”, and “On God”. “Hands On” continues to express Kanye’s understanding of people’s reluctance to accept the change he has made as he asks for prayers to continue resisting temptation.
Jesus is King is a beautiful insight into a fledgling believers first steps of faith. This album, and his recent interviews, show that Kanye is serious about living for God and people are responding. His Sunday Service is drawing crowds to hear more about Jesus and millions are listening to a man talk about his journey into faith and wondering about their own journey as a result.
Kanye is a prolific storyteller and this story of his conversion to Christianity has the power to change the course of millions of lives. Our own stories may not lead millions to Jesus, but the power of personal story cannot be denied.
Remember Your Enthusiasm
In every interview that Kanye has done since the album released, he has looked and sounded happier than he ever has. Throughout his songs he talks about being free from the culture and he certainly appears right now to be excited, enthusiastic, and happy about what a future in Jesus holds.
It can be easy to lose the enthusiasm that we had when we first became a Christian. The spiritual battles and general goings-on of life wear us down. Let Kanye be a reminder of the joy that comes with a life centered around Jesus and remember that enthusiasm you initially had.
People are More Receptive Than We Think
Millions of listeners have tuned in to hear what Kanye has to say about faith on Jesus is King. We sometimes bemoan that people "don't want to hear the truth" when in reality, as evidenced by this album, people are interested in hearing about who Jesus is, they just don't like the way we are talking about Him.
Jesus is King came as a result of Kanye no longer wanting to be an entertainer for the culture but a "Christian innovator" as he has said in many of his interviews. He believes that we can get stuck in the mindset of how things have always been done so much that we refuse to change what can be changed and reach out to the very people who need Jesus in a way that will cause them to respond. Message has been laid down by God, method is open to change.
I do not know whether this will last with Kanye. Supposedly he is releasing Jesus is Born some time around Christmas. Regardless, Christians everywhere have been gifted with a huge opportunity to reach out, invite, and teach others about who Jesus is, what He’s done in your life, and what He can do in theirs. And that is never bad.
If you haven't yet, go listen to his album or at the very least read the lyrics. What Kanye is saying is powerful and we should be aware of it.