Rapper Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Davidson Asghedom, was shot to death outside a clothing store that he owned in Los Angeles. As I’m a fifty-something white midwesterner, it’s not all that shocking that I had never heard of this man until his violent death splashed him onto the news. Listening to a bit of his music this morning, I determined that it was, like most hip hop, not really my thing. That’s okay. His fans probably wouldn’t see in Doc Watson what I do. Different strokes and all that.
From all I can gather, this man was beloved within his community and in the wider world. People from the area, included in a CNN report on the crime, spoke of him as more than just a celebrity.
What caught my attention about Nipsey Hussle today was that last tweet that he sent out.
Having strong enemies is a blessing.
— THA GREAT (@NipseyHussle) March 31, 2019
There’s something to be said for that, although I’m not sure what was meant by the statement. It’s kind of a cliché amongst Christians that if Satan isn’t bothering you, then maybe you’re not really bothering him either. Therefore, if he’s a dedicated enemy, then you must be doing something to rile him up. In that case, “Having strong enemies is a blessing.” I’m pretty doubtful that this was what Nipsey Hussle had in mind.
But here’s the reality of the matter. This man, whatever his positive and negative qualities, had a very strong enemy, the enemy that all flesh shares together: death. Ever since Genesis 3, death has been the ultimate enemy, the strongest enemy of all humans. Death is one of the four horsemen. It comes for absolutely every person.
Death comes for some more quickly, more savagely than for others. In Nipsey Hussle’s area, the level of violence is far higher than in the decidedly suburban area where I live. We’d be callous beyond excuse to act like issues such as crime, poverty, racism, and disease don’t treat some people differently than others. But regardless of who you are, death comes for you.
That’s what makes the work, accomplished already but yet to be fully consummated, of Jesus Christ so powerful. Unlike anyone, prophet, priest, or king, rapper, actor, or cop, Jesus has set the wheels in motion that will, eventually, put an end to death. Paul sums it up in a simple but profound claim:
The last enemy to be abolished is death.–1 Corinthians 15:26
In the same chapter of 1 Corinthians, he goes into more detail on the matter.
When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?–1 Corinthians 15:54-55
To have strong enemies might arguably be a blessing, but it is even more of a blessing when we have a strong Friend who is capable and willing of putting our greatest, our most inescapable enemy to rout.