“So dad, have you heard about what’s going on with Kanye?” my millennial son asked me recently. He excitedly relayed the eyebrow-raising account of Kanye West’s conversion, discipleship relationship with a credible pastor, and the imminent release of an album titled “Jesus Is King.” His interest was piqued partly because much of this story was playing out at a small church connected to the conservative Christian University from which he and one of his brothers graduated.
“The proof of his ‘conversion’ will be an undeniable transformation in his behavior and priorities”
All I knew about rapper Kanye West was his cringe-inducing interruption of Taylor Swift at an MTV Music Video Awards event, a mismatched photo op and speech he delivered in the Oval Office with President Trump, and that he was married to Kim Kardashian.
I warned him to be cautious, to wait for the inevitable walk-back that often comes with celebrity conversions. “The proof of his ‘conversion’ will be an undeniable transformation in his behavior and priorities”, I added skeptically.
The updates continued to roll in. Now all four of my sons were sharing podcasts, interview clips, videos, and cuts from his new album. Interviews that spoke credibly (and biblically) about his conversion and new perspective, and songs that exalted Jesus, contained verbatim scripture and even gave props to Chick fil-A.
My sons are not alone. Social media is abuzz with shock and amazement over “what’s happened to Kanye.” It seems obvious that something transformational has taken place. The artist whose narcissistic and profane raps included titles like “Ye-Sus” (a mash-up of Kanye and Jesus), and “I Am A God”, also shared with viewers of Jimmy Kimmel Live his fascination with black on white porn on Porn Hub. Previously, his confidence in his own opinions seemed unrivaled, but now is now providing lucid and credible testimony of a dramatic change of direction made possible by the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18).
And followers of Jesus are inspired and excited. Not just because of a momentary bump in credibility and relevance this might provide the Christian community, but because uncharacteristic and dramatic change is taking place very publicly and in real time to a wildly popular blasphemer and reprobate.
“The gospel that saved us continues to transform us when we allow the power of its truths to mold our minds, bodies, and affections”
In many ways this unfolding story provides a picture of what is missing in much of our experience within the Body of Christ. Admittedly, he is a newer believer. But Kanye’s journey of transformation already stands in stark contrast to the lives of many professing Christians whose growth in Christ seems to shift into neutral shortly after they are enculturated in the church. Many in the church seem to be of the opinion that they’ve accomplished God’s goal for their life upon receiving His gift of forgiveness in Christ. The fact that transformation into the likeness of Christ, not heaven, is God’s goal for our lives is an unsettling revelation for some.
The gospel that saved us continues to transform us when we allow the power of its truths to mold our minds, bodies, and affections (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). This transformation is what brings God glory. I wonder what glory God would be receiving if, in his post-conversion interviews, Kanye West constantly talked about the certainty he had of going to heaven when he died. How about an album full of songs about walking on streets paved with gold in the by and by? Would this have caught the attention of my sons?
Kanye is young in his walk with Christ, and we will undoubtedly hear reports of relapses and blemishes to his testimony (let’s welcome him to the club!), and cringe at some theologically challenged quotes. Presently, however, it is the dramatic, visible, God-honoring reality of transformation that makes his profession of faith in Jesus credible. It will be a broad, Spirit-enabled, gospel-empowered transformation of the lives of professing Christians that will cause an unbelieving world to see that Jesus is a King worth following.