By Jared Lafitte, Contributing Writer
Imagine a scenario in which a multi-platinum selling rapper who captivates tens of millions with foul lyrics is brought to his knees before God and commits to change. He then takes his talents to the movie screen and reaches tens of millions more.
It’s a real story.
If God can save the rapper known as Ja Rule, God can save anybody. The New York-based rapper, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness but eventually walked away from religious involvement. He rose to the forefront of the hip hop world in the early 2000s, producing hit songs with lyrics that would make any loyal Movieguide® reader shudder.
Fast forward to 2013. Atkins was released from prison in May after serving nearly two years behind bars for attempted criminal possession of a weapon and tax evasion. The gun possession sentence was the result of an incident in which police discovered a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the rapper’s car back in 2007. He served the two sentences concurrently.
Jeffrey had a lot of time to think during his incarceration, and upon his release he began attending Hillsong Church in New York City, the first U.S. congregation established by Australia’s Hillsong Church. There, he experienced the acceptance and tenderness of a Christian community who genuinely cared about him, and he trusted in Christ and began a path toward godliness.
Along that path, he decided to try his hand at acting in a new movie, I’M IN LOVE WITH A CHURCH GIRL. In it, Atkins plays a former drug dealer named Miles Montego who hasn’t quite shaken the sights of the DEA. He falls in love with a woman named Vanessa (Andrea Bailon), whose commitment to God and her church deeply impacts Miles. His past, however, quickly becomes an obstacle that tests the pair’s relationship and their faith. The movie is a picture of how to handle the burden of past sins when they come knocking. It’s also about surrendering to faith, letting God take charge of one’s life.
The film received mixed acclaim. Some have criticized the acting and dialogue for being too mechanical while others have lauded the film’s cinematography and artwork. You can read Movieguide®’s review here. Atkins’ story is unique and encouraging. It’s not often entertainers with a platform of tens of millions like Ja Rule experience such a radical and genuine encounter with Jesus and immediately put their talents back into work, not to mention in a different genre of entertainment. Only God in his great power could deliver such a transformation!
Let’s pray for Jeffrey Atkins. Pray that God will shape him and make his life a rich testimony to His power. Pray that God will use him to reach many millions of people with messages of hope and redemption!