Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Sure Glad I'm Not A Sinner Like Will Smith!

Dear Friends,

You didn’t have to watch this year’s Academy Award show to know what happened. We’ve seen the shocking video, the photo and heard about it now for over a week. Unless you’ve given up all media for Lent, you know that one of Hollywood’s most famous celebrities, Will Smith, stormed the stage during the live broadcast and slugged another celebrity with his open hand after a joke about Smith’s wife. 

Comments and criticisms from celebrities and the media came quickly. Some justified and excused Smith saying that the violence was a normal, natural response from a Black man defending his wife’s honor. An African American reverend who is the founder of the highly liberal New Democracy Coalition told a television news reporter that he hoped the attack, “..will become a teachable moment where we can highlight the reality of black-on-black crime.” A handful of well-known White and Black pastors gave their opinions on Will Smith and his faith and the Christian media highlighted an interview that Smith gave last year. He said that he was a man of faith who loves the Lord and said that his success in life was the result of his faith. He said, “You can’t get where I get if you don’t love the Lord; you don’t get to sit how I sit; move how I move if you don’t love the Lord.” He went on to talk about the power of faith that had been instilled in him by his religious grandmother. 

After the Academy Award attack, Smith received a Best Actor award and his first words were, “I am overwhelmed by what God is calling me to do and be in this world.” He talked about how the character he played had protected his family and how God is calling him to do the same. He said that he wants to be a “vessel for love” and to be “an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”

My initial thoughts were that Smith’s inferring that his uncontrolled moment of violent rage was justified because of God’s calling for him to be a protector, and then characterizing himself as a vessel and ambassador of love, care and concern right after assaulting another person was perhaps not the best witness of our Christian faith to 10.5 million viewers. But to be honest, it’s pretty easy for me to be judgmental about the faith and behavior of others. That brings us right around to the problem of Lent. A time of humble, self-reflection and a close look at our own walk with the Lord. A time of inspecting the “fruit” of our own lives. An honest, perhaps even painful, examen of our faith.

So many of us obsess about our outward appearance and so few look inside to see our gracelessness and sin. We all can instantly spot the most minor of blemishes in another person’s walk with the Lord and have such a difficulty seeing and acknowledging the spiritual deformities in our own disordered life. Digging in to uncover one’s own sin – one’s own hypocrisy – is just too painful. So much easier to make Lent about giving up candy, preparing for a visitation from the Easter Bunny and planning the Easter Sunday family dinner.

The reason that Lent is a long forty days is that the journey through truth and awareness is not a stroll on the beach, but a struggle through the brambles and thorns of the wilderness. Yet, as we stumble along, we find that the Holy Spirit is helping us navigate this difficult journey and then, as it suddenly comes to an end on Good Friday, we find ourselves looking up at the cross where we find redemption and salvation. Lent would be a liturgical farce if we were not the sinful creatures that we are – that’s why we need it. We are in constant need of rescuing, repentance and redemption. As Paul so famously said, “I don’t do the good I want to do and the evil that I don’t want to do is what I do.” Romans 7:19 

I can’t cast stones of judgement at Will Smith because I’ve spent so many decades as a Christian “slapping” people whom God has brought into my life. I’ve never physically slapped anyone but there are so many ways we slap down others and never lift a hand. We hit out in anger, frustration or impatience with sharp, unkind words or actions that may cause an even deeper injury than a physical slap. 

I once counseled a woman at church that I’ll never forget. She was in an extremely abusive relationship and told me one time that she’d rather her husband beat her than for her to hear the hurtful things he say. Surprised at this, I asked why that was and she said that the bruises and broken bones that he had given her had always healed, but the names he called her and the cruel things he said to her, were the permanent injuries that never healed.

When we self-reflect, the hard truth seldom brings joy and comfort. But the very purpose of Lent is to create a healthy hatred of our own sins and a passion for repentance. We then drop to our knees and thank God for His forgiveness. Here’s how it works. We self-reflect and God opens our eyes to see our sins. We feel a sense of conviction of our wrongdoing and that brings repentance, confession and God’s forgiveness. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to God for His grace which then transforms us into a Christian ambassador of God’s love, caring and concern for others. 

I’d suspect that Will Smith has figured out by now that God did not have a call on his life to deliver a celebrity smack-down in honor of his wife, but to show others a Christ-like love. Lent prepares us to be a true Christian ambassador that ushers others into His Kingdom and helps them to grow in the Lord. You, me, Will Smith. We all need Lent...

1 comment:

  1. Dear Lord
    Thank you so much for this message that we as mature Christians so desperately need to hear. I spent many years subtlety judging Christians and non Christians alike because they did things that I would never even think about doing. Until the day that I believe God allowed me to fall and struggle with my own sin issue. Not realizing that the judgment issue was already sin in my life. I have to say fervently I hate what I've done but I'm rejoicing in the fact that the awareness of my own sin,afforded me a deeper knowledge and appreciation for God's goodness, grace, mercy and most of all, love. The constant awareness of our own sin makes us realize we are all in the same boat. In need of a Savior! Thank God He's provided One!!