More recently I read an article about what used to be one of my favorite artists. It was deflating, disconcerting, and disturbing all at the same time. I’ve always been a fan of hip hop, and as I aged and tired of secular rap, I began to listen to “christian rap” and some underground ‘positive’ rap. Yes I know there are some that find it hard to connect rap with anything “christian” or ” positive” but it does exist. Christian rap in its early days, like most other attempts to make certain media “christian”, failed to produce a quality product. Either the beats were too horrible, the lyrics too corny or the artists were bad imitations of secular artists. Even to this day many artists lack the skill and talent of some of their secular counterparts. None the less, this artist who shall remain unnamed possessed a creativity in his sound and lyrics that really bridged the gap and made “christian rap” actually palatable. This artist had the spectacular ability to paint the struggles and joys of being a christian, in a way that few artists could; He could be cheesy and corny one minute, and then deeply sincere in the next. As the years grew he progressed as an artist and like most artists he pushed the edge creatively and musically in his next albums. His content began to change and you could gradually sense that his zeal in communicating Christ had waned. All of these factors along with the rise of other talented artists contributed to my loss of interest in his music.
Now back to the disturbing article. In this article this particular artist was interviewed about his latest album and in his interview he talks about his struggles with women, alcohol and admits that he is in a dark place. What disturbed me is not so much his admission of his struggles or failures, or even his dropping of the f ‘bomb. Nor is it the fact that many christian youth at one time looked at him or still look at him as a role model and feel he’s dropping the ball. What disturbs me is that I am no different than him.
We live in an age of heroes, idols, stars and superstars. The christian world has just as many as the world. I cannot count how many pastors, leaders, artists; christian super stars in the christian world alone who have crashed to the earth or lost some of their brilliance in the last couple of months. Some falls have been worse than others, some leaders might not have had falls, but have suffered large dents in their armor, or lost some of their salt. Ironically, some scholars think the image of a falling star actually describes the devils fall from heaven. Isaiah 14: 12 describes the scene with the following words
How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
How did Lucer fall, it was because of his pride, Isaiah later describes the devil mentioning that he would ascend higher than God, and make himself like God. As an aside there are some who think this passage only applies to the King of Babylon, but none the less the root of the fall is pride. The bible is clear when it says that he who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted. What is common in all falls from grace is a prideful spirit, a complacency and sense of entitlement. In today’s world no fall from grace can be complete without mention of the Lebron James debacle; where this spirit was definitley on display.
See what disturbs me when I see these prodigious falls from grace, whether they be from someone distant getting a divorce, a religious leader teaching false doctrine,or my favorite artist living in darkness, or friend, or relative drifting from grace is that I see myself in them. I think about all the times my heart was dark, my flesh voracious, and but for the grace of God, I had not allowed myself to be put in the perfect storm where my fleshly desires and my complacency to guard myself were met with the opportunity to sin. Too often when we see these falls or notice someone straying from the faith, or losing their salt we become judgmental and self righteous. We condemn our brothers and shake our heads, saying how can they do this to us, our church, to Christ, and fail to see that if it were not for the grace of God it could be us. We demonize the other, and even glory in their fall and exalt ourselves. This is where I love the story about the women, caught in adultery. When the religious leaders try to stone her, Jesus utters these famous words, ” he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
What stones have we tossed at our brothers, at our neighbors, or cult heroes. Have we forgotten our own sinfulness? our own depravity?
In closing I want to look at another scripture in 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul talks about how we should learn from the failures of the saints in the old testament and comes upon this statement in verses 11-12
11-12These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
what follows is a very popular scripture that I think we misunderstand because we read it without reading the verses we just read above.
13No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
Here is my vulgar summary: Temptation is common to all, it is coming. Watch out . If you think you got your life together remember your crap stinks as bad as the next man’s and the minute you don’t think your crap stinks is the moment you’ve been got.