Tony Stone posted this article on Reformed African-American Network lamenting Christians’ lack of discernment over rapper Kendrick Lamar’s verse in the Big Sean’s song, Control. Now I confess that I don’t follow hip-hop much and was unaware of the controversy. But apparently, the song is being construed as an exhortation for rappers to improve their game.
I’m important like the pope/I’m a muslim on pork/I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both
Stone observes that Christians are joining in the promotion of the song without much discernment and consequently, advocating for an attitude of boastfulness
Kendrick was simply being boastful. I know, we all want to herald “good art” and acknowledge God’s common grace in skillfulness present all throughout the world, but “good art” is never a cause to be muted on our grief over sinful boasting. Do we mourn over our own sinful boasting? And should we not mourn over sinful boasting in all the world?
Christians are joining the chorus of the world and saying, ‘Wow, rappers are being challenged to get better in their craft because of Kendrick’s verse!’ as if the advance of culture is spearheaded by bragging and boasting. Babel is a tower built on human boastfulness. New Jerusalem is a city built on the suffering of Jesus Christ. Boasting about the greatness of your skills does not represent progress in culture. This world is inevitably moving towards God’s glory, and His kingdom will come and will be done.
Kendrick Lamar’s verse is out of touch with reality.
Sadly, he is right both about the attitude and the lack of discernment regarding it, thinking that having a boastful attitude is a sign of being victorious.
But I am not surprised…
I have observed that there is this tendency to portray Christianity in a success paradigm that generally models society’s definition that engenders this kind of boastfulness. Goals are portrayed in context of winning and losing. Boasting is redefined as the Christian’s God given authority and blessings are deserved achievements. In fact, my comment to Stone is that this line of thinking has infiltrated gospel music, like this very popular song;
If this is our attitude then no wonder that the boastfulness that Stone speaks of is acceptable. But is this what Christianity is about? The answer is no. It is about what God did through His Son, giving us something we did not deserve, the unmerited favor called grace. It is not a one time deal but a lifetime reality. Christianity is about reverence towards God through belief and proclamation of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christianity is about dependence on this grace through which all else flows, including the gifts and blessings. We boast in Christ, not us. To brag about our favor, achievements or status is something akin to Babel. It dishonors God and devalues the gospel.
I’ve actually stopped listening to gospel music because at time, I find a lack of gospel in it. Even when I get on my Israel Houghton kick from time to time, my listening experience is tempered by the filtering that goes in because of some of the troubling content (there is a blog in the future about this). And what I have found prevalent is a stream of Championship Christianity – calling on Jesus so we can be placed in the right position. It’s not just in music but proclaimed from numerous pulpits and books that have permeated mainstream evangelicalism, though prevalent in some circles more than others. Get on top because you’re “in it to win it”.
The reality is that Christ already won and tells us to lose , “whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it” (Matt. 16:25) Our identity is not in our success but in Christ’s accomplishments that demands faithfulness to His call and His body. And faithfulness will often times not look very successful by the world’s standards. If we revere success over faithfulness, there isn’t much tolerance for weakness or suffering either. Yet weakness and suffering are realities of the Christian life vividly portrayed in Scripture and experienced by Christians throughout the centuries because that is the portrayal of dependence. In fact, Paul said he would rather boast in his weakness because that’s when the power of Christ is best demonstrated (2 Cor 12:9)
Now I’m not saying that we should not have successes in life. Surely, God can and will position his people for influence on varying levels. And it’s great to receive tangible blessings! But we do well to remember that every good and perfect gift comes from above and in Christ, we have already won because it is HE who has won the victory, not us.