Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Kanye West dropped a new album last week. And not just any new album… but an album of gospel music?
I’m a pastor. I’m also an African American male. I grew up on gospel music and I also consider myself a hip hop aficionado. So when Jesus is King dropped last week, I had people from all walks of life engaging me in conversations about it. What did I think about it as a pastor? As a music fan? Do I think Kanye is legit about his faith? How does this album square with the rest of his catalogue?
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been a huge fan of Kanye for many years, not since “Through The Wire” and his breakout album, The College Dropout. As an African American, there are some things that Kanye has said about slavery recently that I vehemently disagree with. Even without following his career closely, I know Kanye to be a world-class performer and producer, whose previous albums have glorified some things much less than “gospel.”
Near the end of Jesus is King, Kanye has a song that caught my attention. Entitled “Hands On,” he repeats:
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? They’ll be the first one to judge me. Make it feel like nobody love me.
It’s actually heartbreaking for me to hear this because I know it’s true. See, there’ve been two kinds of people who have been asking me about Kanye’s new album. The first are people who don’t have spirituality in their own lives, but know me as a pastor and hip hop fan. Those people have been approaching me from a place of real curiosity—they genuinely want to know what I think about Kanye’s new music. Their approach is more objective.
But then there’s the other group of people, sadly comprised of mostly Christians, who seem to be asking me from a place of skepticism. There’s been a little bit more bite in their words, more than a hint of judgmentalism.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know Kanye’s heart, but I do know that the God I serve pursues people like Kanye West every single day. God wants people who think they don’t need him. People who are doing life without him. People who are in rebellion against him. People who don’t even believe in him.
Jesus runs after people like Kanye. How do I know? Because I’m one of them. I didn’t always love God. I don’t always make the right choices. I don’t always do what God wants. And in my own disobedience and in my own rebellion, I have found that Jesus is a God who keeps running after me. I know Jesus is interested in Kanye West. Does it go both ways? Is Kanye really interested in Jesus? Is he faking it? Is he doing this for financial gain? Or has he had a profound spiritual experience? I don’t know, but what I do know is his album is causing people to ask really good spiritual questions. This past week, there was at least one young man who came to my church to hear about Jesus because Kanye’s music influenced him to seek God.
I also know that millions of people’s lives have been changed dramatically after meeting Jesus. Why shouldn’t Kanye be among them? Even more than hip hop or gospel music, I’m a fan of life transformation and redemption. If that has happened for Kanye West, praise be to God.
I guess it’s possible that Kanye could be preaching from false motives. But even if, I’m reminded of the words of Paul, another cultural influencer whose life was dramatically changed by an encounter with Jesus. In a book of the Bible (Philippians 1:18), he writes
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.
That’s exactly what is happening with Kanye’s new album. Across social media this week, the words Jesus is King have been used perhaps more than at any other time in the history of the world. Think about it. Think about how many retweets, reposts, and reshares have included those words. Jesus is King was trending on the Internet. And man, I believe that’s true. I believe he is King. I believe that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King.
We’re right around the corner from the Christmas season, a season where we sing songs like Joy to the World. One of the lines of Joy to the World resonates as I think about this week and this album, “Let every heart prepare him room.” I pray that Jesus has made a home in Kanye’s heart, and I pray that as that has happened, he can make room in more and more hearts of more and more people as well.
God is in pursuit. He pursues me. He pursues Kanye. And, most importantly, I believe He is pursuing you.