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Kirk Franklin’s X-Rated Secret

It was a great attention grabber: “Kirk Franklin’s X-Rated Secret.” It piqued my interest, and on Wednesday of that particular week I joined the tens of millions of viewers who tuned in to “Oprah.” During the Queen of Talk’s opening remarks, it soon became evident that this was to be a serious show. My analytical mind was soon to be disappointed when I discovered that “X” was not being used as a symbol for the Christian cross. This “X” stood for “explicit,” “excessive,” and “extreme.” This “X” stood for “censored,” “obscene,” and “crude.”

As I sat bemused before the one eyed hypnotist, I was forced to face reality–Kirk had not only opened the curtains to his glass house, but had given us the key to his heavily guarded closet. From the age of eight until about a decade ago, the charismatic pop icon who had revolutionized everyone’s concept of gospel music had been struggling with a sex addiction. While penning such masterpieces as “He’s Able,” and “The Reason Why We Sing,” one of the most recognized faces in gospel music was unable to come to terms with the reason why he sinned.

Coming Out

Kirk is not the only gospel superstar who has “come out” about past failures. It is no secret that the gifted and talented Donnie McClurkin once struggled with homosexuality. And although its been more than a decade, many are still reeling from the shock of hearing the celebrated songbird Sandi Patty confess to adultery. We usually learn about the human frailty of those who minister to us in song after they have overcome. However, there is often a tendency to forget their present victories and become preoccupied with their past failures. Not too long ago, an evangelist ministering at a certain church in London influenced a number of gullible minds to discard their Donnie McClurkin CDs. Somehow, he just could not accept Donnie’s transformation. No–somehow, he just could not accept the transforming power of God’s grace.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that lifestyle does not matter for ministers. The Bible is clear that ministers have a responsibility to reflect Christ in their personal and public lives. In fact, I am so convinced about the necessity for ministers to live exemplary lives that I refuse to support any ministry in which the leader openly compromises and has no desire to reform. However, I also understand the nature of humanity and know that the call to minister is not automatically accompanied with immunity from sin. All of us experience the struggle with the flesh, and at some time in this Christian walk, all of us have sinned. Our sin may not be in the mold of Kirk, Donnie, or Sandi, but not one of us is totally innocent.

Amazing Grace

When I reflect on those who ministered for God in scripture, I have no doubt that he can use anyone to do his will. Abraham was a liar and an abuser, Judas was a thief, Peter was prejudiced, David was an adulterer, Rahab was a prostitute. If he used these sinners in their imperfection, then surely he could have spoken through Kirk even while he fought his demons. Again, I am not suggesting that God condones sinful lifestyles or that ministers should not make every effort to resist temptation, I am simply acknowledging God’s ability to use even those of us who are flawed.

I’m not sure if Kirk did the right thing in publicizing his personal struggles. I firmly believe that the details of a person’s battle with sin don’t need to be revealed unless absolutely necessary. Nonetheless, I can only hope that Kirk’s honesty will help others with similar struggles to seek release from the prison houses in which they are trapped. I can only hope that they can experience the transforming power of God’s amazing grace.

As you read this week’s column, some of you may be overcome by dangerous addictions. Some of you may be burdened with guilt from your tendency to rebel against God’s will. If you fit this category, I pray that Kirk’s testimony will soon be yours. If you really wish to triumph, make yourself accountable to someone who has a connection with God’s Spirit; remove temptations from your environment; have faith in your ability to say no; most of all, always envision victory as you keep in mind that “where sin appears to be powerful, grace is even more powerful” (Romans 5:20). Amen.

Keith Augustus Burton is a sinner saved by Grace. He writes about the Grace of God in his book, The Compassion of the Christ: Practicing the Ministry of Jesus (Stanborough Press, 2004).

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