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Forgiveness in Hollywood

How do you ask a room full of executives, actors, writers and producers expecting humor to forgive someone of an offense? That was exactly what happened recently at the Cinematheque Award Ceremony when Robert Downey Jr. received the prestigious honor.During Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech, he said. “I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason. When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.“ . . he asked in return that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So . . . I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin . . . in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me.”Who would have thought 10 years ago that Robert Downey Jr. would have such care for another actor to plea for someone else’s forgiveness, and such respect in the community that the audience would respond in applause and thereby give forgiveness implicitly.

The reality is that Mel Gibson has been a lightning rod for almost any kind of attack in recent years. He has been ostracized for the sins of making anti-Semitic comments, abusive treatment of his girlfriend, drunkenness, and the list goes on. Though he made some efforts to make amends – especially with the Jewish community in Hollywood – there has been little sympathy for Mel.

Of course, Evangelical Christians embraced Mel during the theater release of The Passion of the Christ, despite his unique brand of Catholicism. However, Christians largely disappeared and severed any affiliation with Mel after his embarrassing & sinful antics.

I remember my old professor Steve Brown (I say ‘old’ because it was 15 years ago, and because he actually is old) saying the problem in reformed theological circles is that we say we believe in depravity, but if we find any . .. we’ll shoot you. I don’t know if I laugh because it’s uncomfortably true, or because it’s so absurd when laid out so clearly. But I do laugh.

Mel has a nervous laugh at times. . . I can still remember the laugh –whether in an interview, or in his first Lethal Weapon movie amidst the “Christmas tree salesman”. I don’t know why. I have talked to people who have worked with Mel, and I know he is not perfect, but neither am I.

It’s not often that you find wisdom from the stage of an awards show. Usually it’s political plights, obligatory “thank you” s, and humor intended for industry insiders.

Maybe it takes Robert Downey Jr. to remind us again what Christ taught in Luke 7 about forgiving “that kind of woman” who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. He came to forgive, and those who are forgiven the most long to see others forgiven as well. I don’t know the spiritual condition of Robert or Mel, but I pray for them, and I am consummately thankful for real men who fail big, but also forgive big.

Copyright © 2011 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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