Kanye West. If you’ve not heard of him, you were probably born before the ’70s or lived under a rock. And you most definitely would have never heard of his wife, Kim Kardashian. If you google Kanye’s name, about 167 millions results appear. Wikipedia introduces him as
“an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer… West is among the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century and of of the best-selling music artists of all time with over 140 million records sold worldwide. He has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him of the most awarded artists of all time and the most Grammy-awarded artists of his generation… Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and 2015.”
In western cultural terms, Kanye is a big deal. He’s famous. He’s rich. He’s an influencer, and now he’s a self-proclaimed Christian, something that has split the Christian community. Now let me state from the outset that I have never enjoyed Kanye’s music. It’s a little too artsy for my taste. And because of this, I haven’t listened to his latest headline-making album, “Jesus is King”. So this is not a post relating to his music or theologically musings. It’s a post regarding how we as Christians should respond when a celebrity figure publicises their faith in Jesus. The approach I believe to be helpful is to treat Kanye’s conversion as a Berean.
What the heck does that mean?
Well, let us begin by considering the two most popular approaches amongst Christians to Kanye’s professed conversion.
- Staunchly Reject It: When it comes to conversions, mainly when celebrities are concerned, no shortage of conversion police come out of the woodwork. Doubt is their automated response. They refuse to believe and therefore refuse to rejoice “over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). There is a theological litmus test that must be passed both in the presenting and receiving of the gospel. Until they are convinced both have occurred, then salvation must be doubted.
- Blindly Celebrate It: Sometimes it feels like Christians are so desperate to have their faith validated that rather than letting Jesus be their validation, they jump on the bandwagon of every celebrity postulating faith. Secular celebrity artists such as Justin Bieber and Lauren Daigle, athletes such as Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow, or tv and movie stars such Chris Pratt, Jim Caviezel and Chip and Joanna Gains (fixer-upper), are too quickly aggrandised by Christians.
Both responses are unhelpful and unbiblical. A propose a better approach. Treat Kanye as a Berean.
So what’s a Berean approach?
In Acts 17, Paul and Silas travel to a town called Berea, roughly 81 kilometres from Thessalonica where they had previously been ministering to Jews. The New American Commentary states that while a somewhat remote region, “Berea was the most significant city of the area, having been capital of one of the four divisions of Macedonia from 167–148 b.c. It evidently had a sizable population in Paul’s day”. What is interesting about the Jews in Berea however is that Luke describes them as
“more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11
The word “noble” translates the Greek eugenēs. It originally meant of “noble” birth” or being “high born” but more generally became known to apply to one’s behaviour. Particularly in that, they were open-minded, tolerant, generous, charitable, fair and thoughtful. The Berean Jews are described this way due to their receiving of Paul’s teaching with eagerness, yet not uncritically. They wanted what Paul was teaching to be true; therefore, they thoughtfully examined it in the hope that it was. I think this is a helpful way to consider Kanye’s conversion.
Unlike the those who staunchly reject it, let us receive it and celebrate it with all eagerness. Hoping and praying it is genuine conversion. Not because it is Kanye, but because it is one sinner repenting and turning to Jesus. In doing so, their eternal destiny forever changes and temporal experience is completely revitalised. What could be more worthy of our joyful celebration?
This eager rejoicing is good for our souls as it reminds us that nothing is more important in this life than to know Jesus in saving faith. Our celebration is also favourable for Kanye. For if his conversion is genuine as we hope, then there is going to be a significant process of discipleship and transformation that will take place under public scrutiny. He, like every new believer, needs the church to be his cheer-squad, not just his coach. If he feels isolated and condemned before his journey has even begun, then when he falls, and he will, where will he turn for gentle restoration? (Gal. 6:1)
Additionally, unlike those who blindly celebrate it publishing every article they can find on social media to feel vindicated in their faith, let us allow time. Time for Kanye to work out his faith as God works in him (Phil. 2:12-13) And if God is genuinely working in him then time will tell as fruit in keeping with repentance (Lk. 3:8) takes time to blossom. The Bible warns against putting undue spiritual pressure on brand new converts by placing a bulls-eye on their back (1 Tim 3:6). This is a real problem with insecure Christianity. When we put our hopes and dreams on celebrities like Beiber and Kanye, we both hurt our faith as it’s not on Jesus, and we set them up to fail.
Living out our faith in a secular context is difficult in and of itself. Let alone being labelled as one of the most influential people of a generation with all the extra scrutiny that brings with it.
What if we treat Kanye as a Berean? What if we simply take his word for it and rejoice in eagerness that it be genuine. Jesus really is his King. And examine the scriptures, focusing on the logs in our own eyes, and how our lives don’t match our words of Jesus being our King. And let’s allow Kanye to journey out his faith, without added pressure from the church to be our hero and see where Kanye is at in 5, 10, 15 and 30 years from now. If his faith produces fruit, we celebrate even more. If it hasn’t then wh pray for godly Christians to cross his path and speak the truth of the gospel to him so that he would genuinely receive it by faith and we can eagerly rejoice is another sinner repenting and coming home to King Jesus.