“The slap” has dominated the news for the past week. Will Smith’s assault and battery of Chris Rock at the Academy Awards shocked movie fans around the world. What surprised me is that so many followers of Jesus went on social media to justify the slap as a man standing up for his wife. If you’ve been on a desert island for the last week or so, here’s what happened. Chris Rock, while hosting the Academy Awards, ad-libbed an inappropriate joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. It was about her hair which is affected by a medical condition. After initially laughing, Smith walked on to the stage and smacked Rock across the face. He followed that up by shouting a vulgar admonition at Rock. I never watch the Academy Awards (I couldn’t care less) but I saw this video on the news. What I also saw was that more believers than I would have anticipated took to social media to justify what Will Smith did as valiantly a man standing up for his wife. Is this what the Scriptures teach about loving our wives? Let’s take a look.
According to Ephesians 5:25, husbands are to “love their wives as Messiah loved the church,” sacrificing himself for her. In Ephesians 5:28-29, husbands are again exhorted to love their wives by nurturing and cherishing them. Frankly, these words are a great reminder to all of us men, to seek to meet the needs of our wives before meeting our own. The Bible teaches that husbands are to be sacrificial, servant leaders in their homes, not domineering and demanding overlords. But does that require physical assault against someone making an unseemly joke about a wife?
Let’s remember what else Ephesians teaches. In Ephesians 4:26 it says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Certainly a person would be right to be angry upon hearing his wife insulted. Yet, how should we express that anger. There are three tests we should examine to check our anger.
First, there is the sin test. This means we’re to express our anger without losing our cool and falling into sin ourselves. For example, if my wife were to be in physical danger or facing assault, and there is no other way to protect her other than by assaulting her attacker, then yes, that’s what I should do. And I should do it sacrificially, even if it means bringing pain or even death to myself. But if a man insults my wife privately, then I should calmly and verbally address the man and rebuke him. If it is a public insult, then it’s appropriate to rebuke the insult in a calm, firm and yes public, way. Will Smith could have walked onto the stage and told Chris Rock that he crossed a line in his comedy and apologize to my wife. Doing that would have won Smith accolades for his care for his wife. Anger turns to sin when we allow the anger, instead of Scripture, to rule our behavior.
The second check is the sun test. Ephesians 4:26 goes on to say, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” This refers to addressing issues immediately and not protracting dealing with the offense that makes us angry. We need to deal with offenses as soon as we can (before the sun goes down) so that anger doesn’t turn to bitterness. When we’re bitter, it eats us up, and doesn’t solve the issue that caused anger.
The third check is the Satan test. The next verse says, “and don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:27). Satan will exploit bitterness because he loves division. He will accuse and incriminate us if we convey our anger sinfully. He uses wrong expressions of anger to destroy our reputations and careers. That’s why Denzel Washington, the critically acclaimed actor and outspoken follower of Jesus, immediately told Will Smith, “In your highest moments, be careful; that’s when the devil comes for you.” Just 15 minutes after the slap, Will Smith won the best actor award. It should have been the mountain peak moment of his career. Instead, it has cast him into the deepest valley.
So what can we take away from “the slap.” Most of us really don’t care about the doings of celebrities and their wild behavior. It’s interesting gossip but it doesn’t change the world. But the truth is that most of us, when angry, act out, say or shout inappropriate words, and damage our relationships. So, we can look at Will Smith as a cautionary tale for us. We too need to check ourselves with the three anger tests. A long time ago, a friend of mine quoted these words from Robert Ingersoll and I’ll never forget them: “Anger is the wind that blows out the lamp of the mind.” Let’s seek God’s help to control our anger. And remember Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
A second take away is to learn compassion and forgiveness. Will Smith has apologized publicly and now he’s resigned from the Motion Picture Academy. There will certainly be other harsh consequences in his life. I hope he turns to Denzel to get help, maybe he’ll even come to the Lord Jesus and experience God’s eternal forgiveness. I hope Chris Rock forgives him too. Maybe, we need to forgive and care for Will Smith, and to pray for him as well.