It all started in September of last year. Many of us know the story already. The setting is the MTV Video Music Awards, and Taylor Swift had just won an award, becoming the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award. As she was accepting the award, Kanye West storms the stage, takes the microphone and goes on to say that he believed another artist should have won the award. Kanye West eventually apologized and Taylor Swift offered her forgiveness.
Flash forward to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. A couple weeks before the 2010 Awards, media was recalling the event from the previous year. Around the same time that his new album released, Kanye West also recalled the event, using it to get his name back out in the media. Notably, both West and Swift were slated to perform during the 2010 VMA telecast.
Taylor Swift takes the stage to perform, and those watching can almost cut the tension with a knife. Swift sings a new song titled “Innocent”, the chorus of which says: “It’s all right, just wait and see, your streaming lights are still bright to me. Who you are is not who you’ve been-you’re still an innocent. It’s OK, life is a tough crowd. 32, and still growing up now. Who you are is not what you did-you’re still an innocent.”
Wow. What a powerful statement. Those are words of forgiveness and redemption. “Who you are is not what you did”. Wow. It is so easy to caricature those who have acted against us as though they are simply the thing that they did. But, no, Swift continues to see West not as an event, not as simply rude or inappropriate, but as a fellow human being.
Isn’t it amazing the way in which real life intersects with the Bible? One is reminded of Matthew 18, when Peter approaches Jesus and says, essentially, “How many times do I have to forgive someone who sins against me? 7?” Jesus replies by saying, “Not 7 but 70 times 7.” In other words, Jesus was saying forgive him a million times over, if need be. Don’t keep track. Forgive, forgive, and forgive again.
Taylor Swift has been a beautiful example in this instance of doing just what Jesus has said to do in this passage. Swift forgave West a year ago when the incident originally happened. Then, this year before the VMAs, the media and West himself chose to use the event for their own gain. Swift didn’t retaliate. She did not even choose to simply ignore the situation. Swift chose to write a song about it and perform it, once again telling West that she understands and that she forgives him.
God’s redemption and love shows up in some funny times and places. Sometimes it is in the face of the priest or pastor as they open the Word. Sometimes it is in the face of the martyr as he or she prays for the very ones who are persecuting them. This time it was in the face of a 20-year-old country singer, as she sang of forgiveness at the MTV Video Music Awards.
We would all do well to be a little more like Taylor Swift, and in doing so, to be a little more like Christ.