Today’s episode dives into a recent event on the cultural stage – the moment at the Academy Awards when Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock in the face because of a comment Chris made about Will’s wife Jada’s hair. Chris’s joke was followed within seconds by Will walking onto the stage, striking Chris, and then returning to his seat with no response beyond shock from others at the event. The Oscars went on, and Will won an award and received a standing ovation. But the event was shaped by the earlier act of violence, and much backlash and debate has followed.
The guys kick off the conversation by arriving at a foundational assumption that the conflict between Chris and Will was not staged, and only then turn to consider the significance of the event in the culture at large and for the Christian. The lack of an immediate response to Will’s action raises the question of what compels us to defend our cultural heroes. The response to Will in the aftermath of the event has been mixed, and while the majority opinion turning against Will’s action, criticism has been mixed with applause for Will’s defense of his wife. This applause confronts us with the contradictions of a society that can at the same time defend women and be rife with debate over what gender even means.
For the Christian, the Will’s situation calls to mind the value of self-control, the fleshly impulse to shirk it, and the way in which the gospel drives how we respond to offense. There was, of course, something good in Will’s desire to defend his wife; however, the action he took was wrong. Will demonstrated fallen man’s propensity to escalate, while the gospel teaches us to offer grace and forgiveness even as we defend the offended in ways that are just and good. We are free to respond in this way because God is just, and we can relinquish judgment to Him. We are called to self-control, and self-control allows us to see situations of offense as opportunities to witness to the gospel, and to respond to them wisely and with an aim to do good.