I must begin with a confession. I have very rarely listened to the music of Prince. It is for no other reason than the fact that my musical tastes don’t lend themselves well to the kind of music he was known for. But having said that, I am not unaware of how popular and loved he was. His sudden passing at the age of 57 has shocked many in the musical world. How should a Christian respond to his death?
Prince is a musician who is difficult to understand. He became a Jehovah’s Witness in the early part of the millennium. His lyrics, as I understand them, are a combination of his own spiritual quest and very highly sexualized experiences that seem complex. At one time, says Rolling Stone Magazine, he presented himself as an androgynous sexaholic. He could speak of the virtues of celibacy, and at the same time extol the virtues of incest. He was a man who wrote both pornographic lyrics and also a man who called the cross of Jesus the only hope in a world of darkness. Clearly, he was a complicated man.
But putting that matter aside for a moment, almost all agreed that his musical and artistic abilities were exceptional. His ability to not only write, but to perform, and to re-invent his music is truly a testament to both his brilliance and very hard work. Reading the many biographies of his life reminds me of three very important biblical truths.
The first is that even while human beings are desperately fallen and estranged from God, still the image of God remains. There is something about the human ability to create that remains within all of us despite our sin. Whether it is music, art, architecture or literature, the image of God is constantly being expressed. The God who made the world with outstanding expressions of beauty has created human beings who are able to create beauty themselves. Even though the image is twisted, and is often used in ways to distort the truth of God, the beauty of human artistic expressions testify of what it means to be human.
The second truth is that even fallen human beings have an interest in the things of the gospel. I am not here making a statement of Prince’s eternal destiny, but he appears to me as an unregenerate man who was fascinated with the saving message of the cross. His life shows me that we as followers of Jesus ought to learn from this. We should be confident that even among the most unlikely of all people, there will be an interest in the saving message of Jesus.
Finally, the news of his sudden passing reminds me that death is not abstract or philosophical. Death is the omnipresent reality that all of us face. The necessity of realizing that each of us, at a moment’s notice, will be transported at any moment before the bar of God’s justice ought to make us soberly aware of the importance that so many of us attach to this present world.
I would encourage those of us who followed the career of this remarkable man to use an opportunity like this to engage in conversations about the gospel with those who need to hear.