3 Now, as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Acts 9:3-6 ESV
It’s no longer news to the world that Kanye West has released what he calls a Gospel album, and while it listens and plays far from the likes of Aretha or Kirk Franklin, it is here and now we have something new the Lord is using to teach us.
When Kanye first announced he’d be releasing a Gospel record, like a lot of people I was skeptical. It’s no secret Kanye has struggled with faith over the course of his career. His history of music production errs on the side of pride, rather than offering reverence to any higher power, at face value it seems as if he has always worshipped none other than the Almighty Kanye West.
Despite his self-centered history, it’s apparent something has fundamentally changed within Kanye West, and we are witnessing something that so often, believers turn a blind eye to.
God show me the way
The introduction to Kanye for most of the people I know came from “Gold Digger” from his sophomore album, Late Registration but before that, he released a song called “Jesus Walks”. On his debut album, in 2004 around the beginning of the “Christian Metal” phase which brought to life my own reliance on Christianity in music, Kanye was taking a step away from comfortable to make music that referenced and spoke of the Lord. In an act that both put him on the map for religious folk, and helped him stand out among his peers, The College Dropout was the beginning of what we know of Kanye’s story. Those judging Kanye today have been watching him in the public eye ever since, and the history of his life is what makes it so hard for so many of us to adequately accept his recent reformation, but the thing is… it isn’t recent.
Kanye, in his own words, has been attending church since he was young, three times a week with his father and at least twice a week with his mother. In his recent testimony he offered to Lakewood church, he expounded on his youth, and in another interview, he referenced the beginning of his problems with pornography addiction. At a young age, he found a Playboy sitting out, and after peering through the pages he was locked in a battle with it ever since.
This mirrors a lot of our lives, even the most enthusiastic of believers struggle deep down. If you have any doubts about this, I’d encourage you to reference the following verse.
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 ESV
In which we believers read that none of us are perfect, none of us are without sin, as to sin is to fall short of the glory of God. But this story isn’t about the specific verses. This story is about the context.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-26 ESV
I’d like us all to look at Romans 3:24, because that verse convicted me greatly as I tried as hard as I could in my sin to deny Kanye’s salvation. Christ paid the price and secured salvation for all who believe. There is nothing in Kanye’s history that tells us he can’t be saved by grace. The proof is right here, unable to be changed.
So then, where does that leave us? As Jesus is King was on the verge of release, after a handful of delays, I fought with the realization that Kanye could be saved, I assumed after his long path of outrageous maneuvers this is just another stunt. That the Almighty Kanye West was only seeking the gullible. I fought to prove to someone, be it myself, whether or not he was born again.
Because to me, the same man who, in 2005 told a crowded world in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that George Bush doesn’t care about black people, couldn’t be the same man who is now professing his life with Christ.
Devil in a New Dress:
We love Jesus but you done learned a lot from Satan
Through the years, Kanye has referenced religion and specifically Jesus in a handful of instances, chronicling a battle within himself that was largely written off by those who didn’t support his music or his image.
Kanye has always used religious themes in his music, especially on his 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is the Kanye album that first caught my attention, as it released when I was a junior in high school and had started to get interested in hip-hop music and broaden my horizons, while I never personally delved into the content of his music before 2016, the references here made me think a lot about how we view Kanye and what he’s gotten up to over the course of the last few years. The thing is, in a lot of circles day to day, people didn’t care what Kanye was doing. He was a musician and he was over the top, stroking his ego in the limelight with every chance he got. Most of the people I surrounded myself with hated Kanye for his personality, in 2009 when he stood up and shunted Taylor Swift, the general consensus is that he is at his core a selfish and prideful man.
Of course, James and John both were selfish too. They asked in Mark 10:37 that they be granted to sit beside Jesus in his glory. Jesus said to them “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” When they agreed, Jesus replied “The cup that I drink you will drink, and the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left hand is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Then, when the apostles heard what Jesus said, they clamored over James and John. After this, Jesus spoke and replied to them.
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:42-45 ESV
Here, Jesus tells us that the Son of Man, the greatest to have ever lived, the Lamb of God came to serve, to offer his life so that we may be with the Father in Heaven. Because He knew we could not do it alone.
Oh, no longer am afraid of the night // Cause I, I look to the light
As Kanye released Jesus is King some rumors started coming out of the press that he was making strange demands of his team, that they not imbibe in drugs or alcohol while they worked on the project, a stand out was a demand in which they refrain from premarital sex. Kanye himself announced he was going to stop swearing in his future shows. I found it silly, but somehow still refreshing in the end, because I remember being there in my faith. I remember first taking Christianity and my walk with the Lord seriously and it was among the first decisions I’d made, to swear less. I obviously have slid backward, but however small it may be, it is inspiring that even Kanye considered it.
10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:10 ESV
For this, I’m happy to get back to my favorite book in the Bible, James. Where he plainly tells those he is speaking to that vulgarity is not the method of speech we are expected to uphold as Christians.
Speaking of the method of speech to be upheld by Christians, I’ve seen an alarming number of comments regarding Kanye’s past in relation to his newfound faith. That because of Yeezus, he is not allowed life with God. The nature of Yeezus, despite what Kanye might have said at the time is blasphemous. Comparing himself to God at first glance and even naming the album Yeezus as in a contraction of Kanye and Jesus. It’s no surprise other Christians were wary, I think it’s healthy to be wary.
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Matthew 10:16 ESV
This verse gets quoted a lot when someone with a questionable past begins openly announcing their conversion. With good reason, to the Christian today, we are living in the end of times. We are worried about the false prophets and the liars who will precede the Antichrist. Upon watching a YouTube video regarding Kanye’s conversion, A woman by the name of Lea used this verse in reply to Kanye’s conversion, and while I have reserved feelings about the Philia Ministries organization itself, the verse sparked a thought in my mind. While speaking, Jesus specifically used the term wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. (the NKJV translation says “harmless as doves”) The part about doves I think is referencing the other various dove symbolism in the bible. They are a symbol of purity, in times cleanliness, doves are a symbol for being gentle and kind. But serpents? A serpent deceived Eve in the garden, a serpent was used when Moses was freeing God’s people. There is more to this verse than meets the eye.
While I’m going to research more on the meaning of serpents in the Bible, for the time being, I think the message here is simple enough. The Australian serpent, the Western Taipan is said to have the most potent venom in the world. Somewhat unlike its counterpart, the Coastal Taipan, it is a reserved and secluded creature. It won’t strike out unless provoked or threatened. Much like Christians of today, it carries a fierce venom. While the toxin within the Taipan is produced within its glands, the toxin within us is produced inside of our hearts. We don’t know enough about our fellow man to call them down for their actions. We are not called to cast judgment upon everyone, we are called to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ with humility, and in order to do so, we have to use the Bible. We don’t have the knowledge necessary to strike out and bite down upon anyone, no matter how well we know them. We cannot judge the thoughts of their hearts, but only their actions.
I think that’s why Jesus used a serpent in this metaphor because He knew better than us all what Christians would one day be capable of. I’ve seen Christians turn others away from the faith, I’ve seen those who have been emboldened in what they learned, teach things with such conviction that it has frightened away new believers. Those things are still scarring my heart, as I watched friends whom I loved dearly leave behind their life with Christ, and it is a battle I must face. However, I am not lost on the knowledge with this writing I have undertaken, I may find myself in the same place in the near future. I pray the Lord will guide my words and my heart of stone because I am the worst Christian I have ever met.
Yet, Kanye’s newfound faith is not something I doubt. I have no reason to doubt it. Perhaps he was on the road to Damascus just like Saul. Perhaps he really did see the blinding light he references in Ultralight Beam. Perhaps, his salvation isn’t fake at all.
To paraphrase Paul, our salvation isn’t decided by the words of Christians, but by the will of Christ.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Use This Gospel:
A lotta damaged souls, I done damaged those // and in my arrogance took a camera pose
When I sat down to write this, I didn’t think it was going to affect me as much as it has. Since Kanye released Jesus is King I have been thinking a lot more about my own faith and my walk with the Lord. In researching his past and his present, I’ve come to learn a lot about Kanye and I’ve realized he is not much different from you or me, and as he begins this walk, whether it is true or not I am going to do what the bible tells me to do.
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.
1 Timothy 2:1 ESV
1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:1-4 ESV
Today, and all next week as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday I am going to be giving thanks for those like my father, my pastor and my mother, my lovely sunflower and my friends, but I am especially thankful this year for a God who extended His grace to me, an unfortunate sinner who is still confused, and still broken, and who is restored every moment in Christ.
Kanye’s change has done more for me than I expected it would. Because of all I’ve looked into and the things I’ve learned, one thing stands out more than the rest.
God loves me so ferociously.
Truth be told, I don’t know the contents of Kanye’s heart. Nor do I know the truth of any man’s heart but my own. If I can be saved, if God loved me so much as to send his son to die for me despite all I am, in my brokenness and my shame, in my lust and my wrath, in my doubt and my fear, if God stretched His hands to hold me… then I have no doubt that Kanye is just as likely to be saved.
So, I will pray for him. I do not know what his heart holds, but I do know what is within mine, and because of that I will pray God will lead him just as God has led me, forever.
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
I’m glad you came to warm yourself by the fire today. Working on this has been so good for my spiritual health and has given me hope in so many things, especially myself. If you’re lost or have any questions, or just need someone to talk/listen to you outside the realm of religion or spirituality please shoot me a message on social media. I’m always more than happy to talk or to listen. All my social links are below if you’d like to reach out or even follow just to keep up with me! Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for reading.
If today’s post made you think, I hope you share it with your friends. I’d love to have some sounding boards about Kanye and Christ. I’d love to hear from you!
What do you think about Kanye’s recent conversion? Or what people have to say about it?
Hit me back and let’s talk about it!
The Washington Post: Kanye West Found God, but Did He Lose Himself Along the Way?
The Empty Innovation of Jesus is King
Jesus Freak Review: Jesus is King
The Faith of Kanye West: 2 Biblical Responses to Celebrity Conversions
The Kanye Controversy: Saved or Fake? (Philia Ministries)
Kanye West Surprises Kimmel in Brooklyn
Kanye West’s Born Again Testimony
Kanye West joins Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church
Kanye West: Jesus is King, Sunday Service, and being Born Again | Apple Music