Sidhu Moose Wala and the Shape of the Christian Life

How the unsettling death of a musical legend activated my contempt for death, made me attentive to my grief, and returned my heart to find rest in Christ.

I did not know anything about Sidhu Moose Wala until I heard the news that armed assailants shot and killed him in broad daylight.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, popularly known as Sidhu Moosewala, was a Punjabi-born rapper who began his music career after moving to Canada. His stage name is a reference to his village—“Sidhu of Moosa.”

In his short, four-year career his work became known as protest-music. People saw him as a thought leader and an artist. He was popular and controversial, loved and reviled.

As if prophesying his death, in his last musical release, “The Last Ride,” Moose Walla raps, Ni ehda uthuga jawani ch janaja mithiye (The funeral will happen in youth).

The video has more than 100 million views on YouTube. It hauntingly features the crime scene of the murder of American hip-hop artist Tupac in 1996.

More than his death, it was the way he died that shook me. Confusion, controversy, and scandal surround everything about it.

Once I heard about his murder, I listened to his music.

I do not speak Punjabi but art & music transcend reasoning. His earthy, husky voice is full of the one thing that marks all the music I love. It was full of longing.

Though I could not understand his words, I could resonate with his longing. His crying out had a way of calling out the groaning in my own heart—for justice, for wholeness, for the new creation.

When I heard about his death, it drew me into his life. The more I learned about him, the greater the sorrow I felt for him. I began to wonder why the death of a stranger felt so familiar.

Death is ever-present. It takes many captives in India every day. But there is something about a name and a face that cuts through the numbers and makes death feel personal and close to home.

It is appropriate to think of death as an enemy whom we hate.

As a pastor, I felt the sting of death during the second wave of the pandemic. In our church, member after member lost someone they loved. In our country, I spent day after day joining memorial services online.

It is unnatural to grieve from a distance without the comfort of real presence or the company of caring friends.

As a son, I grieved the sudden death of my mother before the second wave. I miss the sound of her laughter, the kindness of her voice, the tenderness of her affection, and the joy with which she always welcomed me home.

Once death touches your life, it changes everything.

The death of a rapper activated my contempt for death and my grief over the pain of it.

Then something else happened.

I remembered someone else who died like Siddhu Moose Wala—a young man, cut off in his prime.

Sidhu of Moosa. Jesus of Nazareth. Similar but not the same.

Like Moose Wala, he had a short public career with a controversial, but a lasting legacy. His “protests” were vocal and visible (John 2:15) and he was friends with outcasts (Matt 11:19). He made enemies out of powerful people who successfully plotted to kill him (John 8:59, 11:45-53).

Unlike Moose Wala, who acknowledged his flaws, this 33-year-old Jewish man was innocent of any wrongdoing. Surrounded by false witnesses and condemned in a sham trial, no sin could be found in him (Luke 23:4, 1 Pet. 2:22).

Like Moose Wala, his death was marked by confusion, controversy, and scandal. It was the talk of the season (Luke 24:18-19).

Unlike Moose Wala, he did not die quickly, but slowly, painfully, and shamefully (Mark 15:39).

Jesus hated death. So he died to destroy it (2 Tim. 1:10).

The death of Sidhu Moose Wala activated a groaning in my heart. It made me attentive to my grief until I returned to remember my hope in Christ.

So what was happening in my heart? I was experiencing the J-curve—a re-enactment of dying and rising with Christ in everyday life.

The Christian life has a J-shaped movement; it is not arbitrary. This movement can happen in an hour or over a decade.

The Lord leads us from what feels like the plains into what feels like a valley until he raises you to the heights so you can see a panoramic view of his glory. We start weak and finish stronger.

First, we enter into some kind of suffering in which the power of the flesh is weakened or killed. There, in the depths, the gospel shapes us more into the likeness of Jesus. Then, we experience a real-time, present resurrection, and newness of life.

On hearing of the death of Sidhu Moose Wala, I was first pressed down to the darkness and confusion of grief that felt like a tomb.

There, in the depths, I met the Man of Sorrows and the conqueror of death. Then, he raised me up to remember and rejoice in the hope of resurrection, new creation, and the indestructible life given to us in Christ.

In this contemplation of God’s glory, his Holy Spirit is transforming us with ever-increasing glory into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Christian life is a J-shaped curve. With Christ, we can walk through tombs to sit on thrones, go through caves to wear crowns, and trade our groaning to rejoice in glory until the day all our deepest longings will be fully satisfied in Christ.