Was Elvis A Christian?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

If you haven’t heard, a Bible given to Elvis Presley by his uncle in 1957 was sold at an auction for over $94,000!

An article in the Christian Post reports on this with the sub-headline: “Was Elvis a Christian?”

The article goes on to mention that it is hard for many to believe that Elvis maintained any kind of authentic faith, due to the fact that he and his music were considered “unwholesome” at the start of his career.

I laughed out loud when reading this, because it reminded me of a conversation I had with a stranger I met at one of our local nursing homes. An Elvis impersonator was in the facility’s dining room and was the hot entertainment for the day. As I visited some church members, I came across an elderly lady peering across the threshold of her room, tapping her foot to “Hound Dog.”

She was in a wheel chair, so I asked if she would like me to help her into the dining room where everyone else was so she could better enjoy the show. She hesitated, gave me a sly grin, and shyly declined my invitation. When I commented that it sure looked like she was enjoying the music, and that I really didn’t mind helping her out, she confessed that the reason she stayed in her room was not because she was not able to go in there by herself. Rather, she had misgivings about whether or not she should be listening to Elvis.

She then went on to tell me about how when she first heard of Elvis, she did not like him because of the way the “young people got all excited” upon hearing his music. “Then,” she said, “he started singing Gospel music, and I wasn’t too sure what to think about him then.”

Why is it that we don’t know what to think about people when they fail to meet our lofty expectations? Elvis died from a drug over-dose and liked to sway his hips, he most certainly could not have been a Christian, right? But how do we account for the fact that he had a Bible where he wrote intimate, spiritual thoughts until he died? Or the fact that he liked to sing “church music?”

We DON’T account for it. That’s not for us to do. Life is never as clean-cut and black and white as we would like it to be. It’s full of messy, sinful people. Some of them truly love Jesus, and at times it will be more evident than others.

I don’t blame the lady I visited, or even the article that questions Elvis’ faith for our tendency to do this. These expressions are by-products of a Christian sub-culture that doesn’t know what to think about sinners. If you act one way, you are in. If another, you are out. Thick lines are drawn in the sand so we won’t defile ourselves by who we associate with, or what we allow ourselves to hear or see.

This makes for an easy, organized, categorical way of approaching life and relationships. But it is not the way Jesus lived.

Guest Devotional by Matthew Richard. Matthew is a young Baptist pastor with a passion for preaching, reading, and writing.  Learn how you can become a guest writer.

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