A week ago the world lost one of the greatest musicians of the modern era.
We live in a bit of a fame junkie culture, so a lot of hyperbole tends to get thrown around when celebrities pass away. But there were so many legendary rumors regarding the man born Prince Rogers Nelson, that, if true, “greatest” musician, or at least greatest musical entertainer of the era doesn’t seem too big.
For instance, rumor has it that when Eric Clapton (a guitar legend in his own right) was once asked what it’s like to be the best guitarist alive, he responded, “I don’t know. Ask Prince.” Rumor has it that Prince played the parts of ALL 27 INSTRUMENTS on his first released album and legitimately knew how to play over 50 quite well. Rumor has it that when he performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2007, the production designer for the show, Bruce Rodgers, asked Prince if it would still work to do the show in the downpouring Miami rain. Prince looked him in the eye and replied, “Can you make it rain harder?” This, by the way, in my opinion, was simply the best Super Bowl performance in history.
Prince was like the seahorse of the music industry – an odd, funny, colorful little creature, unique and beautifully uncategorizable, but nonetheless an essential part to any definition of the environment he lived in. He left a huge imprint and will be missed.
Yes, Prince was an incredible artist, an unthinkably brilliant musician, and an enigmatic performer. You know you’re insanely good when other music legends all seemingly are beside themselves marveling at your talent. For example:
But in case you forgot, Prince was also SUPER dirty. Like…the guy responsible for forcing the music industry’s hand on adding PARENTAL ADVISORY warnings on record covers…that level of dirty.
So, there’s a segment of the world, including the Christian world, who has been blasting Prince nonstop through their speakers for the past week (except on streaming services, cause Prince declared the internet “dead” in 2010). This segment of the population is still in over mourning the loss of a genius…somewhat understandably.
There’s another segment, primarily in the conservative world, who cannot believe that we’d spend so much time and energy celebrating a man who unabashedly objectified human sexuality and shaped a generation to think of it as merely an animalistic appetite. And yet we’ll cause the world to stand still for him all while hard-working men and women in the military, law enforcement, as well as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers (i.e. truer heroes in the opinion of many) die everyday with no fanfare. This segment still seems a little perturbed…somewhat understandably.
So here’s where I’m at.
Prince appears to have made a significant societal impact. This shouldn’t really be much of a surprise, considering his rare skill set. Music has the capacity to touch emotion more than perhaps any other medium. That so many can hear “When Doves Cry” and be instantaneously transported to re-experiencing the sensation of the year 1984 is powerful and mystifying. In a world where we get desensitized by a bombardment of manipulative marketing, the ability to cause someone to feel anything is rather valuable. Prince’s music unquestionably caused hundreds of millions of people to feel something.
But the thought that’s consumed me in the wake of his death is the idea that impacting millions momentarily here on earth is still less consequential than impacting one person for millions of moments in heaven.
Put differently, I work with over a hundred teachers who are doing gospel ministry on a day-in, day-out basis. I know hundreds of parents who are praying with their children to Jesus every night. I know hundreds of Christians who eagerly bring the grace of Jesus into their workplace every morning. These faithful will never, ever get the fanfare that Prince is getting right now. And I don’t think they’re seeking that. Nonetheless, they’re objectively making a far greater impact, because touching someone’s life with Christ yields eternal dividends, not fleeting sentimental nostalgia. I’m not knocking Prince’s incredible career – I’m just saying whatever glory our world gives him, it doesn’t compare.
Don’t take my word for it though. Deep down inside, Prince himself understood the futility of this world. It’s no secret that the music icon joined the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2001. He was apparently an active member of the Kingdom Hall near Chanhassen, MN. Members say he wanted to maintain a low profile, be treated like everyone else, and would go door-to-door to have faith conversations.
What could cause someone who’s moved millions with his secular music to do door-to-door evangelism? ANSWER: The conclusion that this life is clearly not the one we were built for.
The point is simply this: you can sell 100 million albums on earth, but all that virtuoso musical genius is not worth one note of an angel singing Christ’s praises in an eternal paradise. So while the best of the best among human talents captures our attention right now, the humility of a Christian showing and sharing the grace of Jesus is what will make a difference in the end. Your relationships as a Christian are important. Your parenting as a Christian is important. Your sometimes seemingly mundane work, done as a Christian, is important. Getting the world to praise your act means squat in the end. Showing and sharing Christ means everything.
I bet Prince would have said something similar at the end of his life. And if he could, I guarantee he would say it now.
When (the Spirit) comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)
(NOTE: I hope no one draws the conclusion that I’m insinuating the Jehovah’s Witness faith is the same as the Christian faith. The reference to Prince’s late life religious activity merely demonstrates that a man who possessed everything “desirable” in the eyes of this world clearly still longed for something more.)