Scrolling through Facebook I saw a picture of Kirk Franklin and Kanye West. Kirk Franklin posted the picture in an effort to calm the firestorm ensuing as his fans react to the news that Franklin will be featured on Kanye West’s new album, The Life of Pablo. The single, “Ultralight Beams” not only features Kirk Franklin, but a Gospel choir, Kelly Price and a few other celebs.
Check out the post here: Kirk’s post
“Kanye is not me. I am not him. He is my brother I am proud to do life with. No sprints, but Marathons; like most of us are on. Before one song was released, I was crucified because my brother asked me to take a picture. Again “no Kanye, you’re not good enough”? No. That is a dangerous message I believe we send to the world when our posture is they have to meet certain requirements before they are worthy to kiss the ring. It says people are not redeemable, forgivable or candidates for grace. That my friend is religious. I will not turn my back on my brother. I will love him, prayerfully grow with him. However long he’ll have me, and however long the race takes. To a lot of my Christian family, I’m sorry he’s not good enough, Christian enough, or running at your pace…and as I read some of your comments, neither am I. That won’t stop me from running. Pray we win.”
I made the huge mistake of clicking on the comments. I took a quick glance at about ten of over a thousand comments and glance at the nearly hundred thousand likes. How could one picture evoke such strong support and disdain? There were Bible verses flying all around. The same Bible was used by those who were vehemently against this unlikely collaboration and those in unequivocal support! And then there is me.
I thought about the early Kanye days when he didn’t just record a song about Jesus for the album, he released it as a single. Christians were happy. Christians were mad. I remembered being at a party and the beat to Jesus Walks came on. I recognized it right away. His lyrics pierced me.
God show me the way because the Devil’s trying to break me down
(Jesus walk with me)
The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now
And I don’t think there’s nothin’ I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus walk with me)
I wanna talk to God but I’m afraid cause we ain’t spoke in so long
He went on to remind listeners that Jesus walks with murders, drug dealers, strippers and people from all walks of life. Kanye is right. Mixed in with his profanity and political statements were the basic elements of the Gospel – Jesus walks with us. In his lyrics was a simple fact that many accept as truth – that when a person has felt distant from God they are afraid to reach out. I remember the uproar and the sincerity. A secular rapper was crying out to get to know Jesus, and many of the people who claim to know Jesus rejected him, rebuked him and wrote him off.
I’m so confused by that.
So fast forward. Kanye has shown us that there is a faith struggle. There are many of his projects and statements and choices that let us know there is a soul battle in full swing. And then there is Kirk/ Kanye Controvesy.
What’s the problem here?
A couple of years ago a guest speaker came to our church. He shared how Kanye had come to visit him when he heard that he had surgery. During their time together he described Kanye as wanting to discuss deep truths in scripture. He shared with the congregation that Kanye is trying to work out this thing called salvation. He then asked our congregation to be patient because, “These things take time.” I remember how somber and serious his face was as he requested prayer on Kanye’s behalf.
Are we willing to do that? Would you go to the throne of God for someone like Kanye West? Why not?
Yup, in that moment I felt convicted. I had basically dismissed Kanye. I really didn’t listen to his music. I didn’t care about his lifestyle. I didn’t keep up with those people he had been keeping up with – if you know what I mean. But, in the moment I felt like I had missed a momentous opportunity. I feel like sometimes Christians can get so caught up in our opinion of someone or something that we miss an opportunity to rally in prayer and walk together to see a difference.
When LeCrae, a rapper whose lyrics are unapologetically Christian hired a secular DJ to tour with him, Christians were ANGRY! But I was disappointed. If he can tour with LeCrae city after city and be in the presence of tens of thousands of believers and not have a life change – I’m disappointed inUS. We put all the burden on LeCrae to choose a Christian, when LeCrae was giving us a chance to be the church!
Followers of Christ are given a platform to be who we say we are. We are given opportunities to lift up those who have fallen, to embrace those who are ostricized, to give a safe place to those who live life in a public eye, to pray for those whose cries for help are the loudest and most obvious, to do what Jesus did and just straight up love people.
Our flippant opinions don’t change lives or bear fruit. NOPE. We can give our opinions and back up with Bible and we can dismiss our opinions and do the work of Christ!
— TeshaFritz (@teshafritz) February 16, 2016
So in the court of public opinion this Kirk/Kanye Controversy may go to a full blown social media trial, but in the church will we pray for Kirk as he prays for Kanye? Can we commit to being a body of believers that does not condemn, but rather opens the doors for those who struggle to find freedom in Christ? Can we admit that we are all sinners in need of a Savior? Can we allow Jesus to work His plan for people to come to know Him? Can we bear the fact that Jesus wants a relationship with the Kanye’s of the world just as much as He wants one with they people you view as Holy? Our opinions are road block of judgment. I recall Jesus saying this,
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
I know that Kirk’s past and Kanye’s present are a great mix for posts, tweets, insults, and down right meanies. I want to challenge the church to pray for these three things:
- Pray for each person who struggles with believing that God’s love can reach them wherever they are.
- Pray for the people of God who make unlikely friendships and go into unlikely places to allow their lives to preach a message of hope to the otherwise hopeless
- Pray that the people who profess Christ will steward their influence and be mindful of the who their opinions serve (is it God or man)
As you pray please remember that this controversy is just an opportunity to keep the focus on hope and the One who gives hope! Christ is for everyone! Pray for those who are called to a different mission field than you! Amen!
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