What Eminem taught me about Jesus

No one taught me more about Jesus this week than Eminem. Do you know him? For nearly 20 years, Eminem has been rapping about any and everything controversial. His critics call him misogynistic, homophobic, and dangerous.

But, despite his flaws, Eminem reminds me of what I adore about Jesus.

A few years back, Eminem released a song called “Rap God,” a display of the superhuman rapping speed. The song currently has over 642 million views on YouTube. The success of the song and the skills behind it back up the audacious title. Eminem is one of the kings of rap music. Maybe its god.

After all, Business Insider ranks Eminem as the 32nd best-selling artist in music history. His net worth surpasses the $190,000,000 mark. In an age of one-hit wonders, Eminem has dominated the music world from my high school days until today, spanning nearly 20 years.

So, what does that have to do with Jesus? Everything.

In late 2017, Eminem released his latest hit that he cowrote with Beyoncé, entitled “Walk on Water.” You should Google the lyrics and read as this megastar confesses the crushing burden of success. He laments, “Why are expectations so high?” He admits, “It’s the curse of the standard.” He confides that continuing to prove to his fans that he’s a rap god is a “facade” that exhausts him.

Do you grasp what Eminem’s saying? He’s saying when it’s about your performance, your success, your work, you are under a “curse.” When you try to be a flawless god, you end up broken, exhausted, behind a facade. (I just noticed that rhymed! Maybe I should start rapping . . .)

I bet you and Eminem have that in common. Because we all try to keep up with a standard from the past. Maybe it’s . . .

  • The time you spent reading your Bible before you had a baby and ended up with droopy-eye devotion syndrome.
  • The sermon you preached last year that everybody loved, which you haven’t equaled since.
  • The hours you volunteered at your church before the chronic pain kept you at home two Sundays each month.
  • The joy in God you used to have until depression made not crying every day a small victory.
  • The amount you formerly gave to church before the layoff made you Google “food pantry.”

Been there? Keeping up with our past selves is exhausting. Competing with others’ high expectations is burdensome. You can do so much in your spiritual life—be on the top of your game for two decades like Eminem—and still end up crushed, plummeting into the dark, exhausted. This is what happens when we hope in the law, in our behavior, in ourselves.

Which is why I adore Jesus. He once invited, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What an invitation! It’s open to all who are burdened. That’s you. That’s me. There is no cost or consulting fee. Just a promise that Jesus will give our hearts exactly what they need—rest.

It’s the rest of knowing you are forgiven, saved, secure, cherished, and chosen. Not because you performed on the “album” called This Week’s Good Works. Because of Jesus. Because of his grace. Because of his unconditional love.

Pator Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.

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