The third in a series of theological reflections drawn from the lyrics of Kanye West.
“No Church in the Wild” (2011) by Kanye West and Jay-Z is a song about freedom. The freedom that comes from being unshackled from human and religious authority.
Here’s the chorus:
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?
Morality is no longer defined by a higher power but by the individuals involved:
We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission
The result for the narrator is the high life of luxury cars, weed, cocaine and sex with various women including one who is tattooed with the words “No apologies” and “Love is cursed by monogamy”.
Most of us aren’t living the “ballin” hip-hop life but Jesus uses the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) to show that the search for freedom apart from God’s authority is a common human experience. It’s the story of a son who shows no regard for his father’s authority or reputation. He prematurely takes his share of the inheritance, leaves home and lives as he pleases.
Rather than finding liberty, the son discovers that freedom from his father leads to poverty and isolation. It’s a picture of humanity separated from the good God and reaping the consequences as we seek to rule over ourselves.
When the son comes to his senses and returns home, the father responds with great compassion and rejoicing rather than anger. It’s a picture of God’s warmth and willingness to be reconciled to his lost creation.
For the Christian, freedom is not found apart from God but in right relationship with him as Father. That right relationship is ruined by our rebellion but restored by the person of Jesus, in whom we find forgiveness and learn to live according the Father’s will rather than our own.
It’s a reconciliation open to anyone who seeks to return from the wilderness.