Lecrae is a rapper and a Christian, but he seems to resist being labeled a “Christian rapper.” And despite a huge amount of success within the Christian music genre, in the last few years he has migrated more to the mainstream.
On Thursday, he posted a video link on his Facebook page from the Rock the Bells tour, a large hip hop tour featuring rappers from multiple generations – most of them “mainstream” artists. The video, which he posted with the warning “explicit lyrics”, showed Lecrae and 2 other rappers each performing a short freestyle solo rap. And while Lecrae’s words were about hope and Jesus, the other two performances contained material that would not be considered, well, “clean.” (If you’re interested, you can find the video here, but please be warned about the explicit content. If you are easily offended by such material, heed the warning.)
Over 950 comments later, there was a full-blown Christian controversy on our hands.
You can imagine the reaction. Many people were encouraging him in his mission. Thanking him for the courage to take the Gospel into the dark places in this world. Saying that it was the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy.
But they were not the only voices. Lots of Christian fans expressed their disappointment that Lecrae would be on the same stage with others who were cursing. Many said they would no longer support him as an artist or buy his music. Some calling him to repent, saying that we as Christians are called to be holy and separate.
There were many saying that Lecrae had crossed the line and should return to the right side.
Funny — Jesus had many of the same things said about him.
Jesus was accused of hanging with sinners. Teachers of the Law couldn’t believe that he would even sit down to eat with tax collectors or prostitutes. The Pharisees saw a line between “us” and “them” and were offended when Jesus crossed it.
But maybe that’s a line that Jesus just didn’t see.
By the way, I get where the line drawers are coming from. Christians should care about holiness. Jesus spoke a lot about sin, and we shouldn’t be afraid to follow suit. We are called to be aliens and strangers in the world. But it seems like we spend so much time arguing about our lines and where they should be that we forget that for every line we draw, we keep someone out.
Jesus seemed to destroy more lines than he drew. He invited more people in than he sent away.
What bothers me is that the essence of who we are as Jesus followers — the core of what we are about — is inviting people to a table where everyone has a place. And yet much of what I see in our Christian culture is the drawing of lines to keep people out.
We gather together each week to share a meal and wonder at the grace that allows us to have a place at the table. And then I spend much of the rest of the week looking upon others like they are less worthy than me.
I know we have to be serious about sin. But our desire to be holy cannot take us away from the people who need the message of grace and love and mercy. We need to be very careful when we draw lines between “us” and “them” and make sure it’s a line that Jesus would see.
Because the essence of who we are is invitation and not exclusion.
May God fill us all with wisdom for this task. Let us be serious about sin, yet first in line to hand out forgiveness and mercy. May we love deeply and follow Jesus passionately. And may our lives be an invitation to all those around us to come and find a God who gives them a place at his table.