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Arrests, apologies and extending grace

I’ll wager that reporters all over the U.S. are calling up Christian organizations, churches and pundits to get their response to Mel Gibson’s recent arrest for drunk driving, his despicable behavior (which included lude and anti-Semitic rants) and the apology (which even some of his harshest critics admit was self-effacing) he made afterwards.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and confess that I’m hoping Christian spokespeople respond better than most of what I’ve read so far. Truthfully, I’m somewhat disheartened. Maybe that’s because I just heard a sermon (based on Les Miserables and the Prodigal Son parable) on extending grace to those whose lives are wretched. Maybe it’s because (as I discovered when it came to Isaac Hayes) I’m somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to my approach to media figures (which was greatly influenced by the folks at MasterMedia International). Maybe it’s because I personally know people who are recovering alcoholics. Or maybe it’s because I know I need a lot of grace of my own. Whatever the case, I’m hoping a measure of grace is extended by Christian voices and spokespeople rather than the cynical and harsh mish-mash I’ve been reading.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Gibson deserves grace because of he’s a movie star or filmmaker who's made a blockbuster Christian film. He’s made and directed some good films, but I definitely don’t like all of them—and just because he made The Passion doesn’t give him carte blanche sainthood. I’m not even saying Gibson deserves grace because he’s a self-confessed Christian. I don’t agree with many of his lifestyle choices and I definitely don’t like his theology.

What I’m saying is this: Gibson deserves grace because of who we are.

Bottom line, we followers of Jesus shouldn’t treat Gibson any different from any other human being when they do something despicable or hurt others. He should be treated like any other person sick with or recovering from alcoholism or some other addiction. Gibson should receive the same response as anyone else when they recognize they have a problem, express regret and sorrow and take responsibility for it.

In other words, Gibson deserves to be treated the same way we treat each other (or at least, the way Jesus calls us to treat each other). We love, extend grace, and forgive because that is what God did and does for us. Because that is who God is—and his Spirit lives in us. Because that is the way you live in the Kingdom. Because that is who we are.

Maybe we can look at our gut response to Gibson as an opportunity to ask: What does it tell us about how we respond to those around us (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.) when they miss the mark—sometimes in awful, painful ways? Food for thought.

(Image: Oi Jimmy! at


Mirtika said…
I and some writing pals have been praying for Mel. I think it's right we called him on his outrageous and offensive behavior. I think it's right he's apologized.

And I think it's right that some folks, like Rabbi Lapin of Toward Tradition are being reasonable in their approach.

While many are blaming Satan--among folks I know--I give the credit to God. I think it's been a long time that some ugly stuff about Jews has been in Mel's heart, and clearly he has an arrogance issue (as many rich, powerful, and famous folks seem to have--cause it comes with the territory, that temptation). And I think this is God's doing. He's forcing Mel to address his problems by giving him little choice.

And I do hope the church--all the church--prays for Him, even if He doesn't consider those of us outside his particular church real parts of the Body of Christ. We should hold him up and help him so that he comes out of this better, stronger, and closer to God.

And, I hope the Jewish community extends the forgiveness to Mel that he's asked for. I really do.

carmen said…
mir, thanks (as always) for coming back! re mel, i'm too think there needs to be discernment and accountibility in any relationship or walk of life to call us out of wrong (sinful) behavior or wrong paths (sinful patterns). my heart-pain here dealt with the rapid way in which people wrote Gibson off (remarkably similiar to some past situations i've seen in church and grass roots life), perhaps even reminding me of the way i've jumped from grace to the philosophy of "honest-work-honest-pay-this-is-the-way-to-please-the-Lord" (javert's life philosophy in "les mis"). again, thanks for the post, and i join with you in praying reconciliation and forgiveness top the page, here and in all our relationships.
Thanks for your insightful comments on this topic. I too am a man in deep need of grace and I am thankful for your strong and bold words about extending grace.
David said…
Great blog, I'll be back.

I know from my own life that a pool of evil dwells deep inside all of us. We need everyday to practice keeping control. Does this diminish as we become more mature in the Lord? No, in my experience it gets harder! I don't mean that mature Christians are likely to commit crimes against humanity, but rather the awareness of sin becomes greater. I vote for grace to Mel. It must be really hard with all that money and adulation to make a go of having a spiritual life. Thank God I can't act/sing/write/paint/make money...
carmen said…
thanks, mp, for stopping by--and i appreciated your blog's post as well.

david, i'm back and forth to your blog as well. good stuff. and thanks for your insights on the issue of sin and grace. i think henri nouwen said something similar about how the awareness of your sin grows as God transforms you. which, for me at least, also increases my awareness (and gratefulness) for grace.