Written By Aaron Di Placido, Australia
There’s a popular saying in some circles about a Christian’s journey of transformation called “progression over perfection”. This saying comes to mind when I think of my own journey in Christ, but most recently it has also come up a lot when discussing none other than artist/producer/rapper/pop culture icon Kanye West.
Over the past week, there have been countless articles, videos, and reviews breaking down the release of Kanye West’s latest album, Jesus Is King. Kanye is one of the most popular and influential artists of the 21st century, so any time he releases an album—it is a big deal.
It’s no surprise then, that when West announced that he had become a born-again Christian and would be releasing a gospel album—less than 12 months after he had released I Love It, a song that is perhaps his most raunchiest to date—a vast amount of criticism and hype surfaced across the globe.
The world’s biggest artist who is renowned for vulgar lyrics and explicit thematic elements within his music would be creating an album about . . . God?
It had to be a joke, right?
After hearing this announcement, my initial response was to question his faith: “Surely, he can’t be a Christian?”, “Even if he is, he doesn’t know the first thing about God to create a gospel album”, “He’s going to lead so many astray”.
I immediately had to catch myself from allowing these thoughts to fester. As is written in James 4:12, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
It is incredibly prideful and foolish to judge another person’s faith, especially when I have never met the person before. Yet, it is also incredibly easy for all of us to do that on a whim—simply based upon personal thought or public appearances, rather than looking to the Word for guidance in our response.
What I found most interesting though was that, I, as someone who has been following Kanye’s work, never once judged him as harshly as I did when he became a Christian. This is a man who had been abrasive at awards nights, called himself a god, and even named an album Yeezus. And whilst I had my own opinions, none of them met the magnitude of doubt and skepticism than when he announced his faith.
That made me realize that perhaps I had subconsciously set a standard in my mind about who’s deserving of salvation—and who isn’t.
Thinking it through, I was reminded of all the past wrongdoings and mistakes that I have made, and continue to make. While they aren’t publicized like West’s have been, I have still sinned—regardless of who was watching. In spite of all that, I know in my heart that I am forgiven because I have placed my faith in Christ.
John 5:24 is straightforward in communicating the truth that believing and accepting Christ leads to forgiveness of all past sins: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
On top of this, we have seen riddled within history incredible transformations of even larger scale. Think Saul (also known as Paul) who went from killing Christians to being one of the most devout and passionate martyrs of the faith in the book of Acts. As Paul himself later wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
Through this line of thinking, Kanye’s story of redemption and discovery of Christ is a lesson in not allowing our judgmental thoughts to take hold when we look at the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It can be so easy for us to put ourselves on a pedestal and to accept our own forgiveness from God, but not His forgiveness of others. When we do so, we limit God’s ability to transform the most broken of people even though He has forgiven us for our wrongdoings.
What Would Jesus Say?
When we catch ourselves in these thoughts, the best place to go is straight to the Word. To ask ourselves, what does God say about it all? Through our own reading and reflecting, God wants us to be able to stand for his Word, yet to never judge others in their journey. In Matthew 7:1-4, Jesus famously speaks of the need for us to remove the plank in our own eye before the speck of dust in our brother’s eye. This serves as an incredible reminder for us to consistently allow God to work in our hearts, instead of focusing on the wrongs of others—or what God could be working in their hearts.
When Kanye’s album Jesus is King dropped, global response has been centered around Kanye’s faith, and Christians and non-Christians alike have been contending over whether his faith is legitimate.
This is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing.
Continuing on from Matthew 7:4, Jesus says in verse 5, “. . . first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (emphasis mine). Sometimes, we can forget that final line. Jesus was telling us that once we have been humbled by our own sin, we can then help those whom we have perhaps slandered or judged in the past.
This is something we as Christians can live out to those who have yet to come to know Jesus as a demonstration of His grace. That despite someone’s past and how they have lived their life, we still love, pray for, and reach out to them. What an encouragement this will be to those on their spiritual journey, to see that there are people willing to help them through their struggles!
Kanye has started a brand new life of discovering Christ, and while we have no say on the legitimacy of his faith, I am encouraged to see that Jesus is King is personalized in communicating his own stories of struggling with faith, and large portions of the album praise and uplift God. Tracks like “Selah”, “Closed on Sunday” and “Use This Gospel”, praise and worship God for His ability to use us despite our sins, knowing full well “my life is his and not my own”.
We are all on a journey of progression over perfection, Kanye West included. Therefore, let’s not tear apart the album trying to search for evidence as to whether Kanye is an authentic Christian or not, but be reminded that even the most fallen of us can be saved. And regardless of our past wrongdoings and mistakes, God deserves all the praise for His amazing grace to us.