Around 2004, I began serving the LORD through Christian rap. Though it was my goal to lift Jesus lyrically, I found that I spent many notebooks talking about myself and the “whackness” of others in comparison to me. As I think back, I even used Christ’ work in my life as the basis for justifying being such a braggart. It is something to be repented of. Even though I feel strongly about my own personal experience, this is not solely a personal conviction. My penitence stems from what the text of scripture has spoken concerning following Jesus in light of His humiliation.
Recently, I downloaded a FREE album. Praise God this group put out what they had worked so hard on for free. The album was by Christian rap group that is relatively new minus one whom I consider the frontrunner and from what I know, the composer of this group. Musically, it was dope! The lyricists were real lyricist, the kind you have to press the rewind button for because of the cleverness of their wordplay. I appreciate that in this age of auto-tune verses and screwed and chopped hooks. However, I’m a “content man” beyond witty similes, especially artists that claim Christ as their Savior even if they don’t claim to be “Christian Rappers”, favoring the “Christians who rap” misnomer. As Christians, I would hope that we would crave to hear more about Christ.
I have listened to the album all the way through once and several songs over and over. What this group chose to speak of in place of Christ, was the “fly-ness” of themselves as the standard for others to attain to. To be fair, I believe if asked, they wouldn’t doubt that Jesus is the standard. But why doesn’t that come across in their lyrics? This kind of braggadocio is antithetical to the scriptures assessment of humanity and is a dangerous pedagogical tool as it pertains to making disciples.
My generation is bent on having “swag.” What is swagger except “boastfulness” “arrogance” and “conceit” by definition? Nothing good there from a Biblical perspective. So, why desire it? Why not shun it? The Apostle Paul asked “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (I Corinth. 4:7). In 2 Timothy 3:2-3 “arrogance” and “conceit” is mentioned as characteristics of those whom the minister should avoid not aspire to have. So, where is room for swagger in Christianity? (Rhetorical question)
Our boast should be in God alone if we name the name of His Son as our Lord. Paul also states in another place, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14) That doesn’t mean we boast in Christ AND ourselves or in ourselves due to the work of God in our lives. The work of our God is the only thing we can boast in. A Christian recognizes that they are nothing in and of themselves except a liability to God in that they cost Him His Son to purchase their redemption.
My concern is that we are relegating the Bible to an antiquated cultural pamphlet that has no baring on the 21st century. I’m sure these comments will automatically be deemed by some as overly critical. However, we should desire to conform to the text. Anytime we present ourselves as the standard we are setting ourselves up for failure. There is no room anywhere in Christian rap for self-exaltation, let alone Christianity.
When the life of Christ is examined – the fact that He was born in humility (a barn), raised in humility (Nazareth – a ghetto), humiliated by those He created (John 1:3, 10-11), died unjustly and humiliated (the cross), and was buried in humility (a borrowed tomb), to say nothing of what He left and set aside to condescend to humanity’s level (Phil. 2:5-8), where does self-glorification fit in? Boasting in ourselves will never fit the mold of having “the mind of Christ” no matter how we try to justify it. What you say or what you refuse to say when given the spotlight is inextricably bound to the way you live out your beliefs.
Our speech is tied to our deportment. The Apostle James spent a sizeable portion of his epistle writing about sins of the tongue (2:2-12). One of the most astonishing things about Christian rap is the denigration of others, usually the unregenerate secular rap artist. We compare them to ourselves, namely, the grace that God has allowed us to experience by telling them in egotistical fashion they don’t measure up to us. Who are we, really? We are what we are by God’s grace (I Corinth. 15:10-11). Jesus wasn’t characterized by going to sinners for the purpose of rebuking them. He had compassion on the sinners. He rebuked and condemned the religious leaders.
One of the greatest flaws of the Christian rapper is their “swag” or the promotion of what their about and what their crew/group/label is about. They can’t seem to get passed that to embrace Christ’ humility. Therefore, the goal of ministry through Christian Hip Hop is inhibited by the attitude of “fly-ness” or “coolness” that is displayed on a beat. Thus, they look and sound no different from those that they claim don’t measure up to them. The Christian rapper is not the standard and when that truth takes up a WHOLE album it leaves no room for self-aggrandizement. Sinful man making much of sinful man is the ultimate oxymoron. Sinful man making much of Christ is the epitome of man’s existence.