The second in a series of theological reflections drawn from the lyrics of Kanye West.
In 21st century Western society, spiritual struggle is largely regarded as the stuff of cartoons, horror movies and religious nutters. However, those who have witnessed great evil, such as those who participated in the Rwandan genocide and those who sought to prevent it, aren’t always so dismissive.
Here’s Kanye reflecting on his own, more personal, spiritual battle:
God show me the way because the devil trying to break me down
(Jesus walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now
And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long
-Jesus Walks, The College Dropout (2004)
Kanye is aware of his spiritual opponent, the being that the Apostle Peter describes as a ‘roaring lion’ bent on destruction (1 Peter 5:8). Kanye is aware of his own waning spiritual energy and his complete inability to atone for his own sin. He wants to approach God but instead he stands at a distance; alienated and afraid.
The word of Jesus to Kanye, and all who stand at a distance weighed down by tiredness, guilt and fear, is an invitation to come near:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And here is the call of the Apostle James:
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Jesus himself was tempted by the devil but resisted (Matthew 4) which means he can empathise with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15). More importantly, he not only issued an open verbal invitation to draw near but physically opened his arms as he was nailed to a cross and punished in the place of all humanity before rising again in victory over the devil and his power (Colossians 2:13-15).
The word of Jesus to Kanye and to all the world is: come near to me and I will give you rest.