Call me a groupie. I follow the rich and famous, as well as the poor and infamous. But I tend to follow stories I think reflect my interest in redemption, and compare and contrast these terrestrial models with the spiritual model we have in Christ. I have a fascination with these “tarnished image” models, knowing all along that Christ’s model of redemption is truly the only one that works. But I believe that culturally our ideas about redemption spring from a culture formed on a Biblical model. It is only when we see that our model is ineffective that I hope and pray we are drawn back to the only form of redemption that can truly change us because it has the real power of God behind it (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Take Mel Gibson (someone please). I started paying some attention to the actor/director after reading a story about a young man with a disfigured face who was given a second chance after plastic surgery to have a full life again. I have recently come to understand that this might have been more urban legend than truth (see http://www.snopes.com/glurge/noface.asp). Nevertheless, Gibson’s star shone more brightly after faithful character portrayals in movies like “Braveheart” and “We Were Soldiers.” And then the controversy over “The passion of the Christ” came along. Gibson fought alone against the Hollywood machine we all thought to direct and distribute a fairly faithful but graphic retelling of the last hours of Christ on earth. While the elite media seemed to cast aspersions, Gibson appealed to the Church universal and not only drew great support but made his investment pay back quite handsomely.
So then there were the rumors of unfaithfulness but we hoped they were only rumors after our investment in Mel’s credibility to make “The Passion” work. Then came the famous incident where Gibson was arrested for drunk driving and spewed out very hateful words to the arresting officers. There followed public and private attempts at redemption, the kind we have seen in public figured acting badly before – public apologies and expressions of restitution, visits to Oprah (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-abrams/oprah-please-stop-providi_b_596887.html), and other working to restore an image (http://www.hollywood.com/news/Gibson_Accepts_Hollywood_Snubs/3564862). In my heart I am privately praying that if this man knows of God in some way that the Lord would do the redemptive work that only He can do.
Discussing the Michael Vick effort to restore his career and life after his arrest and imprisonment for illegal dogfighting and animal cruelty (see my notes as well below), B.J. Gallagher, author of “Why Don’t I Do The Things I Know Are Good For Me?” (see http://blackchristiannews.com/news/2009/08/first-step-on-long-road-to-redemption-religious-leaders-say-michael-vick-is-on-his-way-to-achieving.html) said on Vick’s release that “The American people have proved themselves to be forgiving, if the transgressor seems remorseful, takes his punishment seriously and mends his ways.” Gallagher continued: “American history is full of ‘criminals, liars, thieves and adulterers who have rehabilitated themselves. “Many of them go on to have long, successful careers after recovering from public scandals: Woody Allen, Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton, Pee Wee Herman, Chuck Colson and Mel Gibson, among others.”
Now Gibson finds himself in more controversy: after divorcing his wife of 28 years and marrying his mistress, Gibson sought to recover from his personal and professional problems with success as a producer but stayed out of the Hollywood limelight until last year’s release of the movie, “Edge of Darkness,” which seemed to help nudge Gibson back into a favorable public light. Most recently Gibson’s anger has spewed out into the public again, as a custody split with his girlfriend over their child and his privately threatening remarks led his girlfriend to secretly record and release to the public Gibson’s racist and obscenity-laden remarks. The fallout has begun, from Gibson being dropped by his long-time talent agency and the police investigating charges of domestic violence (see http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/detail.jsp?contentId=189409). So will Mel Gibson seek a second chance at redemption?
So why am I interested in all this? I want to say because I hurt for this person who may privately really believe in Jesus but publically is making very bad choices, and I know that feeling. I want to say that I am Mel Gibson, that I am a sinner who but for the grace and mercy of God would find myself in similar circumstances, who is loved by his wife but has hurt and embarrassed her at times. I think for me there are two lessons here.
I read this morning in Ephesians 3:14-21, where the apostle Paul, overjoyed at God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in His amazing work of redemption as well as Paul’s own role in telling this story after himself condoning the killing of members of the Way, bubbles over in astounding praise over God’s great mercy and His redemptive work in his own life and the lives of those to whom he is writing. I like how the New Living Translation puts it:
“When I think of all this, (3 things – God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in the work of redemption; God’s inclusion of Jews & Gentiles into His adopted family with all the privileges therein; and God’s inclusion of sinner Paul in telling of this wonderful event) I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT).
I also think of a parable Jesus tells about the “empty house.”
“When an evilspirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.“ (Matthew 12: 43-45 NIV).
One commentator wrote this:
“Jesus’ opponents were well known for being scrupulously righteous. But in the process of building their reputation, they lost the heart of what God wanted. They traded truth for legalism which helped them feel superior to others and which allowed them, on occasion, to displace God’s will with their own legalistic interpretations of the law….The pursuit of do’s and don’ts, the passion to rid ourselves of sin, while a worthwhile pursuit, is not our ultimate goal. Merely ridding ourselves of unrighteousness only makes us more vulnerable to sinful forces invading our lives if we do not replace that void with Jesus’ indwelling presence through the Spirit.” (see http://www.heartlight.org/wjd/matthew/0618-wjd.html). I think this pretty much nails it for me. Relate this to public contrition versus inner transformation.
So I long for the inner strength from God to fight against my selfish desires. But I need Christ to dwell more fully in my heart by faith. So I seek to fill my life with reading His word, contemplating on His promises and workings, not only in my life but in the lives of others. I want as Paul prayed to have my roots grow down deep into God’s love to keep me strong; and to experience the love of Christ here on earth while I have breath, though it is too great for me to understand fully. But I must be sure not to manufacture a public faith but fill this cleaned out heart-house with all of God daily. And that’s why I write this today. May God be glorified by my words and actions today (Psalm 19:14). Amen!